Taste the Waste

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Why do we throw away so much food?

And how can we stop this kind of waste?

One third of the food produces in the world for human consumption get lost or wasted every year. Only in EU is around 90 millions of food yearly thrown away.

Taste the waste is a documentary movie by german documentarist Valentin Thurn. The aim of the movie is to show vicious circle of the systematic production that leads to the food waste.

The documentary starts at the end of the circle – two guys are hunting food from the containers behind supermarket in the middle of the night.  They don’t dumpster diving because of the need but because they do that as a small contribution to the reducing consumer demand. The amount of the food they can find in the trash is unbeliaveble. It’s mainly fresh vegetables and food that is still before expiration date. Sometimes is just ripped package, misprinted label or food which have to be throw because of the new good in a shelves. 90% of their food consume comes from the trash and finding the food in the trash gives them freedom and creativity in kitchen because you have to cook from what you have.

It’s a supermarket’s strategy to keep only fresh and nice food because it increases the sales. So all the food that don’t meet the standarts are thrown away even it’s still good.

It’s usually hard to predict what is going to be sold and what is not especially when you have huge variety of products. And customers usually don’t buy food which is close to expire date. The principle of precaution is getting hard and that’s why all the best before dates are getting shorter and shorter. Ten years before the mineral water had shelf life of one and half year. Today it’s only six months.

Average supermarket produces 500 – 600 tons of food waste per year.

 It’s just not a waste of food but also waste of all the effort and work contributed along the supply chain.

The farmers are pushed to produce vegetables and fruits according to the standarts the retailers determine. For example no one wants to buy curved cucumber because straight cucumbers are easier to store because they fit better to the boxes. Therefore most of the curved cucumbers are thrown away and moreover some people don’t even know that curved cucumbers exist. But they do and it’s even natural for cucumber to be curved not mention that they have same nutrition and quality value as a straight cucumber.

We could continue with all these ridiculous standarts and scales – apples can’t be smaller than 55mm, tomatoes have to have exact red color according to the color chart etc. It’s all about commercial quality. Reatilers define and the agriculture has to accept and follow it.

But it’s not a problem just in supermarkets. Average household throw away a lot of food not because it’s old but because they just don’t need it anymore. Lot of people would deny this fact because it’s still morally uncortable to talk about throwing away a good food but it’s a fact and people throw away more food than they could admit.

Reducing food waste to the half would prevent as much climate effectivity as taking every other car in the world. It’s not just because agriculture is responsible fot more than a third of the greenhouse gases worldwide but also because whenever food rots away, it produced methane that affect climate 25 times more than carbon dioxide.  

Blanka Novotná for Media Ethics SS2014



1 Comment

Not throwing away food would

Not throwing away food would reduce carbon emissions

Stating that all the food thrown away in North America and Europe could feed
all the hungry people in the world three times over, “Taste the Waste” is a
documentary written and directed by Valentin Thurn with cinematography by
Roland Breitschuh. In an hour and a half the documentary - released in 2010
- shines a light on the shocking amount of food that globally goes to waste
and some innovative ideas on how to make usage of this.

Following different perspectives from people all involved and affected by the
food industry – farmers, supermarket owners, a bakery owner, local banana
famers in Cameroon and power suppliers - we dive into the how and why
there’s such a large amount of food going to waste.

It starts at the bottom of the food production chain where retailers define the
standard for food. A German farmer tells how 40 till 50% of his crops go to
waste because they don’t meet the standard expected set by the retailer and
the consumers expectation. Being either to big, small or blemished, the
crops are left at the field. Tomatoes go through a color scheme to see if they
have the expected red color. Curved cucumbers never make it to the
supermarket, besides looking off, less of them fit in a box because of their
shape. Which means higher transportations costs.

Supermarkets on their hand have the strategy to keep the freshest and best-
looking food because that increases their sales. All the food nearing
expiration date or looking less good is thrown away.

Out of all the products that do end up in the consumers’ house, the average
household throws away 45kg of food a year that’s unopened or within the
expiration date.

Reducing food waste by half would prevent as much climate-affecting
gasses as taking every other car of the road. Also a study of sixty landfills in
America and Canada exposed if food waste was reduced by half, it would
cut 7,5% of methane gas that effects the Ozone.

Farmers already unite at farmers markets, selling their own products straight
to the consumer. A German bakery recycles his leftover bread in a way that it
can be used to heat the ovens in the bakery. A German biogas plant
produces gas out of food waste. Other people are taking initiative in teaching
kids how to prepare vegetables and teach them about food. So they are
aware and can spread their knowledge further and hopefully be the corner
stones of a new generation.

Summary by Gertjan