Dumpster Diving: Exposing the World’s Food Waste
When I started researching food waste around the world, I was in shock, and when Cody and I started dumpster diving, I was beside myself!
Years ago, when Cody told me that he would go dumpster diving in the U.S while on tour with his band, it grossed me out. I was under the impression that he was knee deep in dumpster juice, pulling out soggy unwrapped food items.
Our first dive at a local grocery store provided us with a few heads of broccoli that I immediately turned into a garlic broccoli dish. The plant was perfectly intact. It just had a few brown spots on it.
Our next few dives dropped my jaw.
Since we have started dumpster diving, we have easily pulled out over $5000 worth of food.
We found boxes of dried cranberries, bags of pecans, bags of blueberries, trail mix, a mountain of vegan energy bars, asparagus, peppers, acorn squash, almond milk, bags of expensive coffee, bottles of kombucha, soy yogurt, organic carrots, rice cakes, organic vegan chocolate, grapefruits, cookie mix, pineapples, frozen vegetables, pumpkin seeds, coconut water, granola, chips, liquorice, apples, kale, orange juice, Lara bars, noodles, dried fruit, seitan steaks, gourmet tofu, olive oil, dish soap, soda, acai berry juice, hummus, quinoa, and even a brand new sleep apnea machine that we sold for $500.
That’s right, a medical store disposed of a new sleep apnea machine most likely because it would have cost them more money to ship it back to their warehouse, so instead they trashed it.
Everything listed above was still in the package, not rotten, and completely edible, or salvageable, not to mention all vegan. so you can imagine how much we left behind.
Definition of “best before” date.
A best before date refers to the quality of the item on the shelf, not the safety. It is a guarantee from the manufacturer that it will remain its freshest up until that date. once the date has passed, it is still perfectly edible for many days to come.
We have found bags of 1 or 2 bruised apples, a giant bag of quinoa had a small tear in it so it was discarded, the yogurt and almond milk we found was still good after 2 weeks of finding it.
I can understand how the idea of dumpster diving would be extremely unappealing to most people, but really what is unappealing is the food waste in this world.
Perfectly good food thrown away, while people everywhere are starving.
Just because something is in the garbage, does not make it trash, rotten, inedible, or useless.
What we are doing is not going to change the system, but it is a protest against the injustice of food waste. It is raising awareness, and it is a commentary on how many of us desire the aesthetics of an item, rather than value it for what it is.
What did we do with all of the food?
We ate it of course! But we had far too much to just keep to ourselves, so we shared it with several friends and family, and even gave a few very large bags of food away to people in need in downtown Toronto.
In the last few years, I have been making a conscious effort to be aware of as much as I can regarding the state of the planet, the animals, and humans that reside here. Somehow I stumbled across the word freeganism, and wanted to learn more.
Freeganism. “The practice of reclaiming food that has been discarded.”
What I learned was shocking.
More than $31 billion worth of food is wasted in Canada every year. This number doesn’t include what is being wasted in schools, hospitals, and prisons.
On the way from the farm to the table, half of the food ends up in the landfill.
Good fresh food is being wasted on a massive scale. Western countries throw out nearly half of their food; not because it’s inedible, but because it doesn’t look appealing.
There is a severe imbalance in how we get things done on this planet, and how we feed people.
When you open up a loaf of bread, do you eat the end parts of the loaf? I do, as it is my favourite part, but have you ever received a sandwich at a restaurant with those ends?
Where do they end up?
A factory that bakes bread in America throws out 13,000 slices of fresh bread ends per day. Multiply that by thousands more in America alone.
Farmers throw out 1/3 of their yield because of aesthetic appearance.
Thousands of pounds of bananas that don’t have the proper curvature, potatoes that are not shaped properly, peaches that are slightly misshaped, and so on.
Animal lives are also wasted. 40-60% of european fish are discarded at sea.
According to the book Farmageddon, in the u.s. 100,000 cattle, 50 million chickens, and 1.5 million pigs are brutally slaughtered and thrown away. Globally that is close to 12 billion animals lives wasted.
This is an ecological issue as well. It is known that raising livestock is unsustainable, and the amount of land and water that we use to grow crops to feed animals is gargantuan.
We could be using the wheat, soy, and corn to feed the hungry, but instead animals are raised. The amount of water used, and wasted to raise livestock really should stop everyone in their tracks.
A country like America has 4 times the food that they need to feed the population, but instead, they feed those crops to livestock for meat.
If you would like to learn more please watch the documentary Just Eat It.
Our planet can only take so much, and we are reaching the ecological limits that it can bare.
Be aware. We need to make, and demand change.
Eat food thats good, don’t throw it out.