Advertisement
Opinion

How the sharing economy can help us ride out the recession

Trillions of pounds worth of meals, homes, and resources go unused every year. Sharing could make all the difference, writes Benita Matofska

There are over £3.5 trillion worth of idle resources worldwide, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Empty houses, uneaten meals, unused tools and machinery. Cars sitting on driveways for weeks at a time, ready meals rotting in dumpsters, clothes which get more attention from moths than they do from people.

If shared, we’d have enough homes, food and other necessities to prevent homelessness, hunger and to save millions of lives.

Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription

This idea of a sharing economy was born out of the recession of 2008 but is often misunderstood. Simply put, a sharing economy is a system to live by, where we care for people and planet and share available resources in any way that we can.

The time of Covid-19 has proven we can solve some of our most pressing problems by taking action through sharing. Take the ‘Everyone In’ scheme, for one. At the end of March this year, 14,610 rough sleepers in England  were taken from homelessness and put up in hotels, B&Bs and other temporary accommodation to prevent them dying on the streets.

Advertisement
Advertisement

But by some estimates, there are six times the number of empty homes than there are homeless people around the world, further proof that homelessness is a problem that can be solved, if we have the political and social will to share resources.

Food poverty is yet another example. Some 1.3 billion tonnes of food, a third of all that is manufactured, is wasted globally each year. By 2012 we were already producing enough surplus food to feed 10 billion people worldwide. Food sharing could end world hunger that kills 36 million a year. 

According to WRAP, the Waste & Resources Action Programme, more than 270,000 tonnes of food fit for consumption is wasted each year. That’s the equivalent of 20 plates of food per second — food that could be diverted to the 8.6 million people in the UK living in food poverty.

So what can be done? If sharing has the potential to save people and planet, how can the sharing economy help us ride out the recession in practice?

Over the last year, charity FareShare has redistributed surplus food contributing to 57.3 million meals, tackling food poverty and food waste and saving the charity sector £14.1 million. 

The benefits, potential and opportunities of the sharing economy are clear. What’s needed is the political and social will

Free food sharing apps such as Olio allow people to easily and safely share food with others. To date, over 2.3 million people have joined Olio, sharing over 6.5 million portions of good food that would have needlessly been wasted.

Then there’s clothing. In the UK alone, we have more than £30 billion worth of unworn clothes sitting in our wardrobes, according to sustainability organisation WRAP, and that was estimated in 2012.

By sharing, swapping, recycling and reusing clothing, not only do we provide enough to go around, we savethousands of gallons of water it takes to manufacture a single T-shirt and a pair of jeans and over 2.5 billion tonnes of waste water from the fashion industry each year.

Indeed, the impact of sharing goes far beyond those living in poverty. In a sharing economy the planet benefits and so does society at large. Life expectancy is longer, infant mortality is lower and overall health and wellbeing is greater in countries where resources are more equally shared. 

As the numbers show, the benefits, potential and opportunities of the sharing economy are clear. What’s needed is the political and social will. And where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Benita Matofska is a speaker, social change expert, founder of People Who Share and the author of Generation Share: The Changemakers Building the Sharing Economy.

The Big Issue is fighting the unemployment crisis through the Ride Out Recession Alliance, bringing together the most innovative ideas and experts to help keep people in work and in their homes during the recession.

Get in touch to tell your story or offer ideas to support those in need by emailing rora@bigissue.com.

Image credit: Sophie Sheinwald for Generation Share.
Advertisement

Support your local vendor

Want to buy a copy of the magazine? We have over 1,200 Big Issue vendors in the UK. Each vendor buys a copy of the mag for £1.50 and sells it for £3, keeping the difference. Visit our interactive map to find your nearest vendor and support them today!

Recommended for you

Read All
Decades of initiatives didn't solve poverty. What can we do now?
poverty

Decades of initiatives didn't solve poverty. What can we do now?

Homelessness is holding back prison leavers when they get a second chance
prisons

Homelessness is holding back prison leavers when they get a second chance

Poverty is being normalised. We can’t keep depending on good people to fix it. The government must act
Paul McNamee

Poverty is being normalised. We can’t keep depending on good people to fix it. The government must act

The steps we can all take towards a deeper understanding
Paul McNamee

The steps we can all take towards a deeper understanding

Most Popular

Read All
The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who
1.

The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who

Boris Johnson set to scrap plan to let workers keep tips despite admitting minimum wage isn’t enough to live on
2.

Boris Johnson set to scrap plan to let workers keep tips despite admitting minimum wage isn’t enough to live on

Life On Mars sequel has ‘a lot of travelling in time and car chases’, John Simm reveals
3.

Life On Mars sequel has ‘a lot of travelling in time and car chases’, John Simm reveals

The controversial new laws rushed through by the government this week
4.

The controversial new laws rushed through by the government this week

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.