Jeanne van Ittersum.
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Bruised apples, carrot scraps and, in the future, maybe even mushrooms and bean sprouts: these are some of the random ingredients they use in their cakes at the catering company Trash’ure Taarten in the Dutch city of Nijmegen. Everything is rescued from otherwise being discarded in landfills and is hunderd percent vegan. The company is also experimenting with edible packaging. They deliver their pies using an electric vehicle. But above all, this social enterprise helps refugees find work.

Idealist and vegan Jeanne van Ittersum (28) is co-owner of this start-up, which is now four years old. A solid sense of responsibility for society drives her in the fight against food waste. “I feel a very strong connection with people, animals and the earth. So I want them to thrive,” she explains in this instalment of start-up of the day.

How do you make your pies?

“We make pies like every other baker does, except from food that is usually thrown away. We buy up rejected food from Dutch growers. The food waste is mostly fruit and vegetables like apples and carrots. An average pie is made up of about sixty percent of rejected produce. In the first year, I attempted to achieve as high a percentage as possible, but I soon found out that this is not the most sustainable option. For example, you use more energy to dry old bread and grind it into flour than if you buy flour from the store. We want our cakes to be as sustainable as possible. Ultimately, I even want us to switch to edible paper.”

Many of the staff are refugees on benefits. How do you help them? 

As a social enterprise, we have to help 75 refugees get a proper job within three years. A study with a job guarantee is also allowed. This is what our funding is based on. If we don’t manage to meet that target, we will not get any money or a subsequent loan. This can be pretty difficult as sometimes we get people who are 54 years old and can’t read or write. In such cases, we communicate with guestures, because you have to start somewhere. We let them work together with us as much as possible and talk more and more Dutch with each other. That way they get used to the Dutch work culture.”

What is the downside of an idealistic undertaking like Trash’ure Taarten? 

“When we approach major potential clients, we aren’t always taken seriously. I think that’s also because of our age. After all, we are young people with ideals and that is still sometimes seen as ‘cute’. But everything will work out in the end, it’s just a matter of time. It’s just a tough business world that we are in and we have to find our way in it.”

Were there times when you wanted to throw in the towel?

“Oh yes, hundreds of times. Customers can ask for the impossible from us, because they want to get things as cheap as possible. In the beginning, we sometimes went along with that, but now that we are a bit bigger we are able to say no more often. We used to spend days searching for a specific product and then the customer still wasn’t satisfied. We have also noticed that we have to travel longer and longer distances for our customers. Everything is now delivered by electric car – easy to do for short distances, but not for longer ones. That makes it difficult to drive electrically because it means we have to recharge the car very often. We are trying to find a solution, but I am absolutely adamant that I will not switch to a smelly diesel.”

What are your ambitions for the future?

“I really want to make Trash’ure a strong local brand, just like Jan de Groot in ‘s-Hertogenbosch with his Bossche bollen. I want all of Nijmegen to think of us when they want to buy a pie. A local network is vital for this, and that is something we can still improve. We would love it if the municipality would knock on our door more often when there is a party or an event. I also hope to include more and more different products in our pies, such as mushroom, bean sprouts and onion. These are ingredients that take more time to process for a pie. But we want to grow, so that means trying out more things.”