So far, we have followed the journey of domestic garbage. Now let's broaden our eyes to the global village. According to a 2018 World Bank report, more than 2 billion tons of human waste is generated per year. That's more than enough to fill 800,000 swimming pools for the Olympic Games. At the current trend, it is expected to surge to 3.4 billion tons by 2050. Recycled waste accounts for only 16% of the total. In addition to Germany, the United States, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand, Turkey, and Hong Kong, the current situation of human “garbage footprint” and countermeasures will be reviewed, including space waste.
In the middle of the night, environmentalists walk into someone's backyard and rummage through food waste bins. In the trash cans, unpeeled bananas and unopened cheese were thrown away as they were when they were sold. One environmentalist even ate a tomato from a trash can on the spot to show that it was edible enough. This is a scene from the documentary <Why Did These Foods Go in the Trash Can>, which aired on a German public broadcaster in 2020.
I looked in the trash can
Environmental activists have been engaged in activities such as 'searching containers' and 'discovering trash' in Berlin, etc., and have been carrying out a 'food sharing' movement, where they find vegetables and fruits, as well as 'useful' foods such as sushi and pasta, from food waste bins, eat and share them. It was also an act that challenged our notions of food, and there was controversy over whether it was theft or a legitimate protest.
There is a reason for these radical protests. A 2018 Boston Consulting Group report estimated that 1.6 billion tons of food are thrown away every year. Half of the planet is starving, and the food wasted alone is more than enough to feed the hungry. In poor countries, most of the food is thrown away during the production process, and in rich countries, consumers often throw away the whole food. There is a moral problem, but the wasteful system that produces on the premise of throwing it away is the realization that it is going towards self-destruction.
New attempts to find alternatives are also born amid the rising anger and awakening against food waste. In 2017, a supermarket called Sirplus, a “food recycling market” that collects leftovers from large supermarkets and resells them at a low price, opened in Berlin in 2017. The reason food is thrown away in the distribution and production process is because it is too small, has an odd shape, or has not been sold past the expiration date. Except for meat, it is claimed that most of the food is edible even if the expiration date has passed or has little left. The food of Sirplus comes here just before being disposed of at the wholesale market, which sells ingredients to restaurant owners, or in the warehouse of a large mart. Biocompany, a large German organic food chain, also supplies products that have reached their expiration date to Sirplus. At Sirplus stores and online malls, crushed canned food, lumpy strawberries, distorted potatoes, and tomatoes with withered stems wait for customers and are sold up to 70% cheaper than regular supermarkets. Sirplus announced that it had prevented 3 million kilograms of food from becoming garbage between 2017 and 2020 through their business activities.
Eliminate the practice of “disposing of food every six months”
Sirplus is a startup founded in 2017 by environmental activist Rafael Felmer and engineer Martin Schort under the slogan, “Save food from trash!” Of course, it is a very small scale compared to large supermarkets, but their claims that “the expiration date of food is only a reference value” or that “food that can be eaten should be sold” received a great response. Was our decision to throw away unclean food unconditionally?
In France, a law has been in effect since 2016 that prohibits the disposal of groceries in supermarkets. Large supermarkets mass-dispose of near-expired food every six months. The European Union is considering a new regulation that will increase the number of foods that do not have to write their expiry date and also change the way they are written.
The voice of ‘save for food that is thrown away’ is growing not only in Sirplus, but also in Europe. In April 2020, Swedish startup Motatos also started selling in Germany with the 'food structure.' Motatos, which started in Denmark in 2019, sells food and household items that are discarded after their expiration date online in bulk at low prices.
In addition, when you order food from ‘Too Good To Go’, an app that sells leftover food at a discounted price, you receive a message saying “Thank you for saving the food.” Too Good To Go, also known as a “food rescue app,” was designed in 2015 to prevent food from being thrown away from buffets in Denmark. It is currently in service in 13 European countries. If you tap on the area you live in on the app, you can see what's left over from selling at nearby restaurants registered with Too Good To go. You pay in advance through the app and go to the store to get your food. Not only restaurants, but also organic specialty supermarkets and large marts post fresh food left over from selling on this app. The best-selling product is a seller called 'Magic Bag' that collects and sells leftover groceries. Usually, if you pay 3 to 5 euros (about 4,500 to 6,000 won), a paper bag full of bread, vegetables, fruits, pasta, etc. is a single-person household. For 2-3 days you will receive enough food to eat.
Buy recycled food
The situation in which the idea of 'buying recycled food' blossoms is positive, but there are many opinions that the system should be changed to reduce the production of food waste altogether. According to European statistics in 2019, Denmark produces 844 kg of waste per person per year, followed by Luxembourg (791 kg), Malta (694 kg), Cyprus (642 kg), and Germany (609 kg). It is paradoxical that countries such as Denmark and Germany, which are at the forefront of separate collection and recycling, produce the highest amount of waste in Europe.
In Germany, where the separation and recycling industry has been developed since an early age, most of the food waste goes to a local treatment plant to produce biogas, and what remains is composted. As of 2017, Germany had 297 biogas production plants and 1141 organic waste recycling plants. However, it is calculated that if the amount of garbage is absolutely large as it is now, the amount of waste that cannot be recycled and is landfilled and incinerated is inevitably large. According to the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, 6.1 million tons, or more than half of the total food waste in Germany, comes from individual households. Considering that, it is a considerable amount.
Let's change the cheap food mass production system
In 2020, the poor condition of slaughterhouses became known as slaughterhouse workers, mainly from Eastern Europe, were infected with Corona 19. Along with the need to reduce carbon dioxide, there is a saying in Germany that "Germans should eat less sausage now". There is a heated debate as the factory-style livestock industry regulations are expected to lead to food price hikes.
Switzerland is considering raising the price of meat, dairy and rice by more than 10% to reduce carbon dioxide and food waste. If a society where you can eat all you can eat was the ideal society, it is a warning that another society may come in the future.