So. Much. Waste. According to the NEA, food waste makes up approximately 10% of the total waste in Singapore. Around Chinese New Year, with all the reunions and celebrations centered around food and the dinner table, I would imagine that this rate goes up. We’re indeed privileged to live in a society in which food, for the most part, is plentiful and its abundance can often be taken for granted.
Although there are many businesses that donate their leftovers to welfare organizations, halfway homes, and charity groups, the vast majority (including individuals) just toss their salvageable food (food that is perhaps less fresh or less than perfect) into the rubbish bin without a second thought.
When I lived in the States, there were groups of people who called themselves freegans who dumpster dived for salvageable food. Most did this not because they were poor or couldn’t afford it, but because they believed in reducing waste and other environmentally-friendly practices.
In fact, I myself have done this (but you must ask for permission from the shop owner first). You just can’t believe what perfectly good and edible delicacies you can find behind a restaurant, grocery store, bakery, or food processing plant. I’ve even done it here in Singapore, albeit to a much lesser extent. And I always ask for permission by the dumper before I do it, fearing that there are laws that prohibit this.
What You Can Find. Some Photos of My “Loot”.
As you can see, the majority of the vegetables in the dumpster are bagged. And even if some are not, I thoroughly wash them when I get home.
I actually don’t mind that they were in a dumpster. I know many people still will have a reaction of disgust, but vegetables out in nature are not that clean anyway. Do they not come from the ground, where people or animals may step, or where birds poop, or bugs breed? Just because the veggies look clean and sterile in the grocery store doesn’t mean they are that way in nature.
Of course, if the food is rotting or festering with ants or flies, I just leave it. But much of the food is surprisingly salvageable with only a few ugly spots (which will be cut off anyway). If you can get past the stigma associated with a dumpster, this can be a fun and rewarding way of getting inexpensive but quality home cooked meals.
Though, it’s been a while since I’ve done it, I’ve always been satisfied with the quality of what I find, have never gotten food poisoning, and know that I’m doing my part to reduce food waste. If there is ever a day to start, it would be the first day of Chinese New Year since that’s when a lot of businesses close and dump all their food, even perfectly good packaged food.