Making it Work

Positive Carbon puts laser focus on pricey problem of food waste

The Irish start-up uses food-waste sensors to identify and log every item of food that is put in the bin in hotels and catering companies

Aisling Kirwan, co-founder and COO of Positive Carbon: ‘Our device, which sits above the bin, tracks and logs every single new piece of food that’s added to the bin.’ Picture: Fergal Phillips

The average hotel in Ireland spends €250,000 each year on food that ends up in the bin. Part of the reason for this colossal amount of waste is that many hospitality businesses have little in the way of data on their food waste. They know very little about what food is wasted most, and at what times of the day they’re throwing out waste in the greatest quantities.

Globally, the problem is even more serious, with a third of all food produced around the world being wasted – contributing to 10 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Positive Carbon, an Irish start-up, is aiming to help address this problem, having developed food-waste sensors that sit above the bin and provide detailed information about what is being thrown away every day.

The company was founded by Jack and Aisling Kirwan, entrepreneurs who share both a second name (they’re not related or married) and a passion for helping tackle the world’s gigantic food waste problem.

Positive Carbon’s sensors use lasers to identify the weight and volume of what is being thrown in the bin at hotels and food service providers, as well as the actual foods that are most often being wasted.

This, the company says, will save its customers huge amounts of money as well as contributing to a greener world, and helping Ireland achieve its binding sustainability targets when it comes to food waste.

Positive Carbon counts hotels like Adare Manor and the Merrion among its clients, as well as catering companies such as KC Peaches and Gather & Gather.

“A lot of the places we work with would already have been getting a monthly report from their waste collector, saying: ‘You wasted this many tonnes on a monthly basis,’” Aisling Kirwan, chief operating officer of Positive Carbon, told the Business Post.

“But there’s not much you can do with that data – you need it to be much more granular. So our device, which sits above the bin, tracks and logs every single new piece of food that’s added to the bin.”

Not only does Positive Carbon track the foods being thrown out, it has also developed reporting dashboards where clients can view in a simple format exactly what foods they are wasting and in what quantities.

“This means they can make informed decisions around purchasing, preparation and production, and reduce their food waste at the source,” Kirwan said.

“Then they have reduced food bills, lower collection costs, and it’s one of the biggest leaps they can make towards their sustainability goals.”

Positive Carbon has already grown its client base in Ireland, and counts German venture firm APX among its backers. It now has 12 staff and expects to grow its headcount to reach 33 by the end of 2024.

Now it is in the process of finalising a new funding round as part of a plan to take its food-waste sensors into Britain and Europe in the coming months.

“We’re always saying that food waste is a global problem, and we want to be a global solution,” Kirwan said. “So we would see ourselves going further abroad – we have a global ambition.”