Taste the Waste
The global waste of food
A film by Valentin Thurn
More than half of our food lands in the dump! Most of it on the way from the farm to the store before it ever reaches our dining-room table: every other head of lettuce, every other potato, and one bread in five. Film-maker Valentin Thurn has researched the extent of this waste on an international scale. He has documented overwhelming quantities of perfectly edible food, some still in the original packaging, frequently enough still displaying a valid ‘best before’ date. In Europe alone, up to 100 million tons of food are thrown away year after year. That’s equivalent to about 3,000,000 truckloads each year – the queue would be as long as the equator – lorries one time around the world!
On a quest to find the causes Valentin Thurn speaks with supermarket managers, bakers, wholesale market inspectors, ministers, farmers and EU politicians.
What he discovers is a worldwide system in which everyone is involved. Everything is supposed to be available at all times, supermarkets constantly have the entire range of wares on offer, the bread on the shelves has to be fresh until late in the evening, strawberries are in stock the year round. And everything has to look just right: one withered leaf of lettuce, a crack in a potato or a dent in an apple – the goods are sorted out right away. Containers of yogurt land in the bin as early as six days before the ‘sell by’ date has expired.
The very fact that half of the food already produced turns into trash has a disastrous effect on the world climate. Agriculture devours huge amounts of energy, water, fertilizers and pesticides. It is clearcutting the rain forest, and in sum total responsible for more than a third of greenhouse gases. Whenever food rots away at a garbage dump, methane escapes into the atmosphere as well, a gas with an impact on global warming 25 times as strong as that of carbon dioxide.
Consumers’ wishes to be able to have everything available to them at all times is making famine the world over that much more acute. The rising prices of wheat offer proof: These days industrial countries purchase their food on the world market, just like developing countries. If we threw away less, then we wouldn’t have to buy as much; the prices would drop, and more would be left for the hungry.
But there are other ways to get there, too: Director Valentin Thurn finds people all over the globe who are trying to put a stop to this incredible waste: so-called ‘dumpster divers’ who rescue food from supermarket dumpsters, supermarket managers who convince their clientele to buy products that are less harmful to the climate, consumer associations that bring farmers directly together with customers. Small steps, yet ones that could make a lot happen: If we, the people living in industrial countries, were to reduce the waste of food by merely half, that would have the same effect on the world climate as if we refrained from half the cars.