The sharing economy just keeps getting stranger and stranger.
That's probably because the most practical examples of peer-to-peer sharing services—like Uber, Airbnb, Kickstarter, TaskRabbit—have already taken flight. What’s left is a mishmash of ideas that may or may not need sharable functionality—things like laundry and personal chefs. But hey, they’re still pretty cool for the few who actually require them.
And then there’s LeftoverSwap, which sounds odd at first but is actually pretty smart—provided it can navigate some possible health concerns.
The idea is simple: LeftoverSwap connects neighbors and helps them exchange their leftover food.
Let’s say you've just finished eating a delicious home-cooked meal and you have a ton of leftovers you don’t want to go to waste. Just snap a picture of the food and post it to LeftoverSwap. Hungry people nearby can peruse what’s available in the area and offer to take the leftovers off your hands. There’s no exchange of money, unless privately arranged, and you can choose to meet them wherever you like.
Voila! You’ve just solved the problem of food waste—or at least your contribution to it. And that’s really what the people behind LeftoverSwap are trying to do. Food waste is a growing problem, and a number of eco-conscious startups are looking for ways to reduce the billions of tons of food that are needlessly thrown away each year.
Farmers, for example, can use services like Cropmobster and Food Cowboy to direct surplus yields to food banks and charities. Meanwhile, in Europe, services like FoodSharing.de have already attracted tens of thousands of users. So why shouldn’t LeftoverSwap—or something like it—take off here in the U.S.?
Some health officials are concerned that the reckless distribution of partially consumed food could spread food-borne illness. For that reason, according to Forbes, the above mentioned FoodSharing.de does not permit the sharing of eggs, raw meat, or fish.
Good intentions and common sense should go a long way toward preventing mishaps: Why offer up leftovers you yourself wouldn’t eat, especially when you have to go to the trouble of signing up for a service and posting an ad? Still, there's always the possibility of passing along food you don't realize has gone bad, or of some prankster or malicious individual handing out sick-making eats. There's a reason, after all, why restaurants have health inspections.
But reducing food waste and feeding the hungry are indisputably noble causes, so we can't help but hope they find a way to make it work. For now, the app is available for iOS only, though the developers say Android and web versions are on their way. If you're looking to clear out your fridge, now's the time to give it a try.