Social enterprise tackles food waste

Food waste campaigners are calling on Leeds residents and businesses to get on board with their free collection service that prevents household food waste from going to landfill.

Instead, the waste is redirected to farmers, allotment holders and everyday gardeners who turn it into environmentally friendly compost to grow better local produce.

Simrun Punjabi and Husain Alogaily are highlighting their social enterprise Compost-it during Food Waste Action Week (18-24 March).

They launched the food waste organisation to help households reduce their environmental footprint and for local growers to increase their volume of home-grown compost as an alternative to expensive, store-bought compost.

The two University of Leeds graduates have a team of student volunteers who help with the planning, organising and collecting.

The collectors use small, portable caddies to collect inedible food waste such as fruit and vegetable peelings and skins, used tea bags and coffee grounds, eggshells and scraps of bread.

They started collecting from Roundhay on weekends and then added a round in Guiseley on Mondays, close to where their local composter Season Well is sited. Season Well is a social enterprise that encourages people to use local, sustainable food and cook healthy meals.

The next step for Compost-it is to start collecting from houses in Seacroft on Sundays.

Eventually, they want to expand the collection service all over Leeds and get businesses involved as paid customers.

Professor Jeff Grabill, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education at the University of Leeds, said: “It’s great to see both current students and our graduates taking the initiative to do something practical that helps the local community and address climate change.

“Tackling food waste is one of the most immediate ways we can have an impact on the climate change challenge that faces us all globally. We are not only producing outstanding research at this University about what affects climate change but our students and alumni  are taking steps to demonstrate they are prepared to do something about rising emissions.”

University friends Simrun and Husain started the service after winning a Mayor’s Innovation Award for the 22-26 age category last year. The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, set up the regional competition to award cash prizes to innovative companies with fresh ideas.

Our goal was to make food waste recycling as easy, convenient and accessible as possible for local residents.

Simrun Punjabi, Compost-it co founder and MSc Sustainable Food Systems graduate

Simrun and Husain graduated from the University of Leeds last December after completing their Masters studies. They entered the West Yorkshire Combined Authority competition because they wanted to help address climate change.

Simrun did her Masters in Sustainable Food Systems and now operates from an office at Nexus, the innovation hub on the University of Leeds campus. Husain did his Masters in the same subject and operates from The Impact Hub in Bradford.

Simrun said: “Our goal was to make food waste recycling as easy, convenient and accessible as possible for local residents. We were pleased with the initial demand from householders who were keen to recycle but just didn’t know how to go about it.” 

Husain said: “Unfortunately, there is a severe lack of physical opportunities for people to recycle their food waste and we wanted to make sure that the service we created was completely free.

“Compost is also one of the most expensive inputs for local growers, so this seemed a great way of matching the two needs.

“We drop off the caddies which are easy to fit into a kitchen. Reliability is extremely important to us. We’ve collected every week for the past seven months, even on Christmas Day!”

It’s exciting to work with Compost-it to get an understanding of how a social enterprise is run.

Orla Smith, University of Leeds Masters student (Sustainability and Business)  and Compost-it volunteer.

Their team of volunteers include members of the Leeds Students’ Sustainability Consultancy which is a student-led initiative. Two volunteers, Orla Smith and Katherine Mustard, are doing the Masters course in Sustainability and Business and saw the opportunity to help Compost-it. They carry out market research, look at financial projections and help coordinate the volunteers.

Orla said: “It’s exciting to work with Compost-it to get an understanding of how a social enterprise is run. We recognise the need for innovation to solve sustainability challenges in the region, so it’s great to be able to help achieve that.”

Katherine said: “So far the collections have been going really well. The team is very collaborative and Husain and Simrun are great leaders. Compost-it is a project that works well for us in terms of what we are studying and in matching our personal beliefs.”

To sign up for the collection service or volunteer as a collector, visit the Compost-it website at

More Information

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