13 May 2008

Food from the garbage


Alexey Aronov, Izvestia Nauki

Despite the unprecedented global food crisis, the inhabitants of developed countries are fantastically wasteful. Every day we throw away millions of tons of food. The first garbage survey conducted in the UK showed that consumers throw away bread and vegetables the most. But the most interesting thing is that we are not talking about any leftovers at all. There are tons of completely untouched products in the garbage cans, often with an expired shelf life. In Russia, such studies have not yet been conducted, but in large cities, everything is fine with food in landfills, too. That's just here, unlike in Western countries, it can then be on the store counter again. And here the consequences can be the most unpredictable.

To the trash, for groceries

To accuse the British alone of extravagance would be unfair. Disrespectful attitude to food is a sign of all "developed" consumers. For example, in Japan, 30-40% of all food produced in the country is sent to garbage. Things are a little better in Germany, France, and Italy.

But the most notorious spenders are, of course, Americans. According to the University of Arizona, they annually throw away about half of all purchased food worth $43 billion. Thanks to this, a movement of freegans has even emerged in America – people who earn their living exclusively in landfills.

In recent years, freegans have appeared in other countries, in particular in the UK. It's no wonder – according to the estimates of the British government organization for waste and Resource Research (WRAP), the British throw 18-27% of all purchased products into the trash every year. Bakery products and vegetables are most often thrown out. But, for example, the British treat confectionery with respect – they are in last place in the "garbage" list.

I won 't eat and I won 't bite

But the most curious thing is something else. A tenth of all discarded products are quite suitable for eating. 60% of the discarded food is not even printed. At the same time, goods totaling almost $2 billion have not even expired. It turns out that many products ended up in the trash almost immediately after they were bought in the store. So much for thrifty Englishmen.

British researchers do not hide that they are shocked by the result. According to the head of WRAP Liz Goodwin, such extravagance has primarily a social reason. Many consumers simply don't value food too much. Or rather, they don't appreciate it at all.

Such wastefulness looks especially monstrous against the background of the global food crisis. Today, about 850 million people are starving in the world, and every six seconds one child dies due to malnutrition. But all this might not have happened. According to the calculations of the UN, America alone could provide surplus food to all inhabitants of the African continent. But instead, the food goes to the trash.

The "second life" of sausage

There is no such attitude to food in our country. Taught by decades of scarcity, our consumers have been storing "strategic" stocks of products on loggias and mezzanines for years. Throwing them out only when they are hopelessly spoiled. And then not always.

Manufacturers and retail chains are another matter. The first throw out defective products, the second – expired. In both cases, their appearance can be almost perfect. And the worst thing is that not only homeless people eat these products. Enterprising homeless people do a simple business on them – they dig out other garbage and sell it to unscrupulous merchants. So the "garbage" food gets a second life. In good stores, of course, it can not be. But in the small wholesale markets near Moscow – quite.

In principle, it is easy to recognize such products. The first sign is the expired expiration date. If you are not used to paying attention to it, then the second sign should certainly alert you. This is an incredibly low price. For example, Kuban wine can cost 20-25 rubles, and a jar of olives – 10 rubles. Do I need to say what such savings can turn out to be for your health?

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