You’ve heard of vegetarians, but what about Freegans? ‘One man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ is a common English expression that perfectly describes Maximus Thaler and other Freegans like him. Freegans believe in an anti-consumer lifestyle. They search through the trash to find food that has been thrown away, but is still edible.
In the US over 40% of food grown is never eaten. In order to get food from farms to consumers‘ mouths is a long process. The food must be grown, harvested, packed, transported to stores, sold, and finally stored in people’s kitchens. It’s an inefficient system. Each step along the way, food is wasted, spoiled, and thrown away. Supermarkets alone throw away an average of $2,300 of food every day. In the US over 165 billion dollars is thrown away every year.
The process of looking for discarded food is called dumpster diving. Maximus started dumpster diving as a student in Boston. At night, he and his friends jump supermarket fences after the stores close, open up the dumpster and look for edible treasure. On an average night, they find fruits, vegetables, bread, coffee, and even processed foods, like ravioli, in the trash. Some of this food is thrown away because it doesn’t look pretty or the packaging is damaged. Other times the food has passed its expiration date, but it is often perfectly safe to eat and is still delicious. Maximus says he eats better than most Americans and he doesn’t just keep it for himself. He and his friends collect so much food that they often host events with free food for the local community.
Food wastage is unfortunately not just a problem in the US. In Hong Kong an NGO called Friends of the Earth, found that the four biggest supermarkets there threw away 87 tonnes of food a day. It’s estimated that 1/3 of the world’s food is wasted. Some companies actively try to stop people like Maximus Thaler from salvaging this food by pouring bleach or water on the food before throwing it away.
While most of us won’t go as far as Maximus and look through the trash for food, it’s worth thinking about how we can be less wasteful. Small things like being aware of what food we have in the kitchen, so as to not buy too much, can make a big difference in not letting food spoil. We also don’t need to be so quick to throw food away that has passed its expiration date. These dates are often set by companies that want to protect their reputation. If it’s bad, your eyes or nose will tell you. Properly storing your food to make it last as long as possible can also cut down on waste. Even doing little things, like not letting milk sit on the table during breakfast, can make a big difference in how long it will last. Check out the infographic on this page on how to properly store food and let us know your thoughts on 1/3 of the world’s food going into the trash.