I’ve had the pleasure of attending a few films showing at this year’s Environmental Film Festival. When I heard about it, I may has well have been told I won a trip to Disneyworld – such possibility! Entertaining environmental education (TRIPLE E???) – could there be anything more exciting for me in my allergy ridden district?
So the other night, with a few friends, I went to see ‘Taste the Waste’ (and almost didn’t, because a few of us weren’t too sure if we had the energy for subtitles). SO worth it. Of course it is depressing, just like we expected, shocking, horrible, you name it. Some of what we learned seemed like downright crimes against humanity.
Largely centered in Europe, the film follows dozens of different people all involved and affected by the food industry – grocers, farmers, volunteers, everyday consumers, scientists, dumpster divers, etc. We begin in Germany; move on to France, Tucson, AZ, Japan, Cameroon, and many others. There is an impressive cohesion and methodology to the film’s progression. We meet an immigrant from Cameroon in France, so where do we go next? Cameroon.
Several different perspectives are shared, and yet most all of them agree: the system needs to change. Large plantation owners are fed the money from big corporations to push out small farmers so that they can grow masses of bananas or tomatoes in high demand. Half of those tomatoes and bananas (amongst thousands of other crops) are then sifted out and thrown away (or just on the ground) before they even get to stores. According to grocers, people don’t want to buy ‘ugly’ food – food that doesn’t fit the ‘norm’. This norm was established in the EU decades ago – or the ‘bent cucumber rule’ – so that any crop that looks different or doesn’t meet a particular criteria set by buyers gets destroyed a.k.a. wasted. Dairy products are getting taken off the shelves up to a week BEFORE they expire, because the consumer probably won’t buy them if they don’t believe they can eat all of it before it does. And half the time, expiration dates don’t even mean anything!
Some people are trying to make a difference. We learn about bakers burning leftover bread with wood chips to heat their own ovens; food banks delivering food taken from the grocery store shelves to people in need, groups sponsoring free meals cooked from unsold produce, and the growing popularity of Community Sustained Agriculture (CSAs).
The silver lining is that the system CAN be changed. Movies like these exist as educational tools – we need to share the knowledge with others so that we can all begin to fight back against obvious problems. Consumers need to demand the return of the bent cucumber! We don’t live in a perfectly polished, canned foods world anymore – excess for excess’ sake. It is about time we adapted to the realities of our stressed environment and appreciate all that the earth provides instead of (literally) throwing it back in its face. But enough preaching to the choir; watch the film and share it with others! Enough waste is enough!