In the name of sustainability, an increasing number of people have adopted the "freegan" lifestyle. And although one might envision a diet filled with slightly rotten produce or slime-covered scraps, that often isn't the case. In fact, one freegan recently took to TikTok to expose a Whole Foods dumpster that had reportedly been filled with seemingly fresh, pre-packaged grocery items. This leads us to wonder why grocery stores throw out food at all, instead of donating it.
Sadly, this happens pretty often. Grocery stores contribute to quite a bit of food waste nationwide — approximately 30 percent of food from U.S. grocery stores shelves is thrown in the trash, according to an environmentally-focused recycling company called RTS, and about 16 billion pounds of food is tossed annually.
So with that in mind, a moment to watch @dumpsterdivingfreegan's video, below.
Here's what we know about Whole Foods' dumpster that was allegedly filled with food:
On Friday, Dec. 10, Dumpster Diving Freegan (@dumpsterdivingfreegan) took to TikTok with a video that garnered over 290,000 likes. She shows a table filled with pre-packaged goods: containers filled with fruit, an entire turkey, cases of guacamole, pre-made salads, yogurt, packages of chicken, and so much more.
"Dumpster diving at Whole Foods is nothing like I've ever seen before," she says in the video. "Every time I come to this particular store I find organic food that's tossed well before its best-by date."
Dumpster Diving Freegan explains that it was cold outside, so the food definitely wasn't rotten, none of it was expired, and that there was so much more she didn't take. So — why did Whole Foods supposedly do this?
Green Matters reached out to Whole Foods for comment, but because Dumpster Diving Freegan didn't disclose the location, the reason was unclear. However, a representative from the sustainability department proceeded to make us aware of many initiatives it has implemented to fight food waste, such as donating to food banks and establishing a Grocery Rescue Program.
But as we previously mentioned, this isn't an anomaly. According to Foodbank Australia, fresh produce that doesn't meet a certain shape, size, or color is often tossed. Additionally, an Independent article from February 2021 revealed that some of the U.K.'s largest grocery stores throw out enough food to make 190 million meals, to counter overproduction.
What are solutions to grocery stores tossing edible inventory?
There are a few ways grocery stores could prevent wasting their unsold edible inventory. Anna Sacks, aka Instagram's @thetrashwalker, told us in a phone interview that companies should allow employees to take home unwanted items.
"There could be an area in the back of house with items they're pulling from the shelves because they're aesthetically not perfect, or they're reaching their expiration date soon," Sacks says. "I'm pretty sure Whole Foods also doesn't do that."
She also suggests stores form local community partnerships, and allow employees take additional items to organizations or shelters. And, since overproduction is often the root cause, she said we need to focus on source reduction.
"We really need to start talking about source reduction, producing less food, and being OK with not having all the variety all the time. Being OK with shelves not always having what we want. We could solve hunger and still have a huge amount of food waste," she says.
There is even a federal law that incentivizes to companies to donate unsold food. Since 1996, according to Feeding America, companies have been protected by civil and criminal liabilities via the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. President Clinton signed this act to encourage companies to donate groceries to those in need.
There are many ways to avoid food waste — clearly companies need to be doing more to prevent it.