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Dumpster Diving to Raise Awareness About Food Waste

Dumpster Diving to Raise Awareness About Food Waste

Think dumpster diving is for hipsters and homeless people? Think again. While people have been rummaging through discards for centuries to find edible food to support themselves and their families, dumpster diving is going increasingly mainstream, and in Germany, it’s just gone high tech. A network of Germans who want to reduce food waste, highlight the huge food waste problem in the West, and, let’s face it, feed themselves, have worked out an innovative foodsharing network that shows how dumpsters don’t have to be the end point of unwanted food.

Food waste has been in the news a lot recently, with more and more people growing aware of the sheer volume of food thrown out in Western nations every year. In the U.S. alone, food accounts for an eye-goggling 21% of municipal solid waste.  Worldwide, over one trillion dollars worth of food is thrown out every year, making up a third of the food produced. That’s a whole lot of food going nowhere, which is bad for the environment and bad for people. Advocates against food waste want to see production cut, food diverted to the people who need it and alternatives to landfilling or incineration (like composting) pursued with more vigor.

Meanwhile, in the Global South, food waste is much lower; in fact, the total amount of food wasted in the West amounts to almost the entire food production of Sub-Saharan Africa. Huge discrepancies exist worldwide in terms of who can access a steady supply of fresh, healthy food, and food waste is a significant contributor, as it diverts resources, farmland and food itself to the production of food for some while others starve. Achieving a state of balance and equal distribution of food resources requires rethinking individual relationships with food and waste, but also changing the entire model of the food system.

Which brings us to Germany, where dumpster divers and allies can sign up for a foodsharing network that distributes information about the latest hot dumpster finds, including bread, chocolate, fresh fruit, cheese, packaged foods, and more. Like other Western nations, Germany routinely discards food that isn’t “perfect,” even if it’s totally edible; bananas that look funny, tomatoes that aren’t quite as rosy-red as they should be. Food may also be discarded before sell-by dates if it’s no longer on trend or if a store needs to clear space. All this food is fine to eat, and can in fact be quite delicious, but historically, access to it was limited to those willing to rummage around in dumpsters to find it.

All that’s changing with the foodsharing network, which includes anonymous pickup and dropoff points in key locations, along with a website with constantly updated information on where people can pick up food. This distribution network diverts edible food to hungry or otherwise interested mouths, and keeps it out of the landfill. More than that, in the long term, an effective foodsharing network can relieve pressures on the Global South, which could in turn help combat hunger in this region of the world, especially when paired with other food saving initiatives.

Could the foodsharing network spread? Let’s hope so, because in addition to being innovative, it’s easily replicable and could make a big difference in communities across the world. While the movement is very young, it has real potential to become something amazing. Even for those not interested in taking advantage of it, it’s a great starting point for a conversation about wasted food.

Related posts:

We Waste 23 Pounds of Food a Month But We Don’t Have To

Why Aren’t We Addressing the Food Waste Problem?

Does Your Annual Food Waste Exceed Your Body Weight?

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Photo credit: Incase.

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202 comments

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7:41PM PDT on Aug 20, 2013

The very idea of throwing edible food away when people are going hungry is simply shocking. We need to petition stores where we live to do the right thing and donate the food to a food pantry.
Thank you for the news.

6:27AM PDT on Apr 21, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

6:17AM PST on Feb 27, 2013

Dumpster diving has always been a symbol of what you can expect out of Washington dc metro area i know of. The homeless people on the streets are treated like garbage. (it makes me so sick) The people from young to old on the streets are just trying to do whatever they can do the Police harass them daily and the harsh winters and cold temps are slowly killing them. Now the economy has deal them another blow and there suffering more than ever.
DC the home of the white house, political leaders and bunches of the Governments executive (don't seem to care about anything expert themselves) Big Gov't contracting businesses (Booz Allen) that throw away 238 pound of food last year instead of giving it to the food kitchens, the poor or homeless) the Gov't office agencies that constantly throw food away and refuse to give it to people who need it and NOW the writers of this article seem SURPRISED well don't be. Gov't waist of everything has gone on so long (there Gov't, they have job, don't need to worry about income or where there family will get there next meal but real people DO. This wastefulness weather Gov't agencies or contractors (booz Allen) can not be tolerated anymore and must be recognized for what these people at these agencies really are uncaring and selfish.
Someday I hope the shoe turns someday so they realize what bustards they really are.

4:32PM PST on Feb 25, 2013

All the places around here have their dumpsters locked up -- the sad thing is that so much of the food could at least be donated with the liability being on the nonprofits taking the food and NOT the store. Many stores say that they can't give food because they would be held liable, but there are laws that make that completely UNTRUE.

8:21AM PST on Feb 25, 2013

It makes me sick that people are starving and we have enough food to feed them, but toss it away instead.

4:34AM PST on Feb 23, 2013

not sure if all big stores in uk still do this
but they used to put holes in tins and remove food
from packages and pour salt over it to stop people
taking it from there dumpsters

3:41AM PST on Feb 23, 2013

thanks

2:37AM PST on Feb 23, 2013

thanks

11:31PM PST on Feb 22, 2013

Oh, man...don't give me this f*cking crap! If you are starving and in need of medical care....you will FIND it if you look and search for it. Oh....and yeah....do NOT, I repeat do NOT make appointments that you KNOW you will never show up for.....UGH! If you need help, you will get it. Just don't eff it up!! If you are high or drugged out, you lose.

7:35PM PST on Feb 22, 2013

Great way of drawing attention to the cause ,fantastic idea.

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