According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, roughly one third of food is wasted globally (1) and $8 billion worth of food is wasted in Australia each year (2). It is of no surprise then that the world and its inhabitants are suffering as a result of the over-production and normalised waste of resources used to fuel the modern food industry.
In early 2016, France legislated against supermarkets throwing away unsold food, requiring them to donate ‘waste items’ to charities and food-banks. Such legislation further forbade shops from destroying food in an effort to prevent dumpster divers/ freegans/ urban foragers from rehoming the wasted produce (3).
As the name suggests, dumpster diving connotes a practice of unearthing, retrieving and consuming food and other products that have been discarded due to aesthetics or minor defects (because apparently small blemishes can’t be associated with clever marketing like ‘the fresh food people’).
While modern day gleaners might repurpose these unwanted items, the products have not been left kindly by companies to fill the void that living expenses leave in the pockets of many. The majority of larger supermarket outlets intentionally lock their dumpsters to prevent people from removing their contents or douse the ‘waste’ items in chemicals to ensure that no one is skimping them out of a few dollars… Jerks.
Such an issue speaks to the heavy overproduction of consumables and high levels of over-consumption perpetuated by an agenda of large profit margins and fuels an entrenched stigma around dumpster diving. However, when people are exposed to the enormous and unnecessary waste that comes from our grocery store dumpsters I think that they can’t help but see that the system is broken.
For the last few weeks we have been feeding the four adults with food that we have reclaimed from a single dumpster in a small town with six grocery stores. This is what the produce looks like…
It’s organic sourdough bread baked the day before it’s been thrown out, it’s fresh fruit and veg, galangal, parsley and basil, potatoes, pumpkin, the list goes on. Sure you might have a couple of dud dives but these bins do not contain rotting, maggot-infested food – they contain perfectly edible food that you might be able to find a blemish on if you squint your eyes while jumping up and down.
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