TH!NK post

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Waste not, want not…

Published 28th September 2009 - 15 comments - 12861 views -

While millions starve to death around the world each year, and landfill sites are piled high we continue to throw out billions of tonnes of food each year. When out shopping last week I happened to spot a shop assistant throwing away dozens of sandwiches and decided to take some footage. I transformed it into a short film to act as a visual reminder of just how wasteful our society has become. It makes a good addendum to Daniel's post.



Category: International Action, | Tags: environment, waste, poverty, food,


Dani on 29th September 2009:

Thanks a lot! A great video… I will try to spread it as much as I ca smile

Jodi Bush on 29th September 2009:

Thank you! I appreciate that. grin

Vanderhaeghen on 29th September 2009:

At work we also had these regular meetings where sandwiches were provided. Of course, all too often there were too many sandwiches. I have saved them from the bin a couple of times, but a lot of them ended up being thrown away.

I wonder what happened to the sandwiches in this case. I know that many supermarkets & restaurants give this away to charity and that their dumps are frequented by many.

Eleanor Thompson on 05th November 2009:

Well done on winning Jodi and an excellent video - truly deserved.

Dr Rick Holland on 05th November 2009:

The tragedy is that supermarkets are typically forbidden by health & safety / insurance laws to give their food to charities or the homeless.  If someone gets food poisioning from eating an egg sandwich that is 1 day out of date, then the supermarket could be sued. 

The problem could be reduced by scraping the use of “display by date”, which means something different to a “safe to eat by date”.

Lots of food is perfectly safe to eat even when it is past it’s “use by date”.  There is a big challenge however in educating the consumer of the difference, which varies for each ingredient.  Potatoes versus eggs for example.

Paul Montariol on 11th November 2009:

You have forgotten a real question!

Jodi Bush on 12th November 2009:

@ Paul - who has?

Paul Montariol on 12th November 2009:

I was tired:
I wanted to say:
You have found a real question!!!

Jodi Bush on 12th November 2009:

@ Paul - thanks.

Jo on 02nd December 2009:

Great video Jodi, short but powerful.

In response to Dr Holland’s message, it is a food safety requirement on products with a ‘use-by’ that would require them to be thrown away - but this is usually for good reason as unsafe food can have serious implications, and it is also important for people at home to know this. High risk foods such as sandwiches and cold cooked meats can cause illness and deaths (especially in the elderly) when they are eaten past their use-by, from pathogens such Listeria (which even grow in the fridge, so just keeping food cold is not enough - shelf-life is important to take seriously).

The ‘best before’ is the other type of label, which is for quality reasons rather than safety - often found on longer-life products, tins, etc. If a consumer finds food past its ‘best before’ they can still eat it safely - no need to waste it - though for legal reasons this is a decision that companies selling food cannot make - just we consumers.

So what should the supermarket (or restaurant) do? I believe the issue goes back to stock control and management. Careful planning and management of stock, ordering, displaying, etc. should be used to prevent the situation happening in the first place. And the same can be said at home - how many people buy more than they actually need/use and then end up throwing it away?

It is important to prevent waste, for practical and ethical reasons… but it is the wrong message to turn this around and say food past it use-by date should be eaten. This just creates another problem!

Jodi Bush on 03rd December 2009:

@ Jo - I think you make a good point, clearly some food will have to be thrown away for health reasons. The problem (like you say) is the ineffective way in which we manage our food supply. We shouldn’t be in a position where billions of tonnes of food are being thrown away.

Paul Montariol on 03rd December 2009:

I know a technique which dry food better than all other techniques and cheaper. Its development is very slow because its new!
The name:
Zeodry plus!

It is the third one!

Rick Holland on 04th December 2009:

Jo, thank you for pointing out my typo.
Obviously I sometimes get just as confused as the average consumer!

Coincidently, WRAP have just today released a tender request for organisations who can help unravel this madness:

Jo on 04th December 2009:

Just out of interest… what do you all make of ‘freeganism’?

I have a friend-of-a-friend who apparently hunts down and eats the food thrown away by supermarkets on a regular basis, often chased by security guards… Is this a reaction to waste gone too far?

p.s. @ Rick: you were right there is yet another label sometimes used (not directed at the consumer but can confuse things!), i.e. ‘display by’. I think the focus for educating consumers should simply be the distinction between whether food is safe or not - but lets see what they decide!

Jodi Bush on 04th December 2009:

I guess while there is waste on this magnitude then freeganism is no bad thing - the people take on the risk themselves. I think though, like you say, there should be greater awareness around labeling and better processes for disposal by shops. I.e. - pick ups of edible foods by homeless shelters, or charity groups.

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