Why Students Are Eating Out Of Bins To Send A Message About Waste
Social media reporter Hannah Sbeghen provides a #unigoals feature article on why some students in Brisbane are eating out of bins and how this has nothing to do with being poor. Over the past couple of weeks, Hannah has been tracking the bin activity of a group of students through reclaimthebin.wordpress.com, finding out how much good food we actually waste and how we can rethink the way we produce it.
Environmental science student Ben Penhallurick hasn’t done the grocery shopping in five weeks, and yet he’s still eating like a king. Whether creating mouth-watering bruschetta or blending blueberry smoothies to his heart’s content, it’s where his dinner is coming from that is really turning heads or, in this case, noses.
The Co-op café at Nathan campus is not running low on food supplies either after Ben and his “reclaim the bin” gang began dropping off 60-80kg of produce each week.
“Instead of taking what we needed, we started rescuing more food and taking boxes of it to people who really needed it,” says Ben.
“Last week we dropped off around 20kg of mandarins alone.
“We know this food will be used after we redistribute it. We throughly clean it all and check for any defects. It’s very rare to get something out of date.”
The Co-op is using a sign to advise students that the food has come from a bin and has been washed. That way they can opt in or not.
Dumpster challenge to change attitudes…
As a part of a challenge to eat entirely out of supermarket dumpsters for a month, Ben and his housemates are hoping to change the way we view food waste. More importantly, they want supermarkets to change their attitudes too.
“We’re not naming anyone because we don’t want to shut down this process of saving food,” says Ben. “We’re making the best of a bad situation.”
Ben says supermarkets are notorious for spreading bleach and glass through their bins. When that occurs, there is no chance to save food.
“It’s upsetting seeing companies wear the green badge of honour while doing things like this,” he says.
“The environment is being affected, but my biggest concern is that this food is going to waste.
“Perfectly good food is going to landfill when it should really be going to hungry people.”
According to food rescue organisation Ozharvest, Aussies are wasting approximately $8 billion to $10 billion worth of food each year in commercial and residential waste. That’s about four million tonnes of food ending up as landfill.
Walking the line …
Although what Ben and his housemates Emma and Louise are doing is not entirely illegal, the law as it relates to bin scavenging in Australia remains blurred. Ben has been stopped by police.
“We didn’t get into any kind of trouble, we were just told to move along,” he says.
“There’s no kind of statute to say what we’re doing is against the law. The police are more concerned about your safety and the potential dangers of jumping into bins.”
The group is uncovering mostly fruit and vegetables, but Emma has used the blog to announce discoveries of clothing and furniture.
“It tends to be a lot of fruit–bananas, apples, pears and even blueberries and cherries–as well as vegetables such as broccoli, heaps of potatoes, pumpkin and sweet potato, among others,” she says.
“We have even found products like clothing, camp chairs, cooler bags and chopping boards.”
Emma can’t understand why grocery stores don’t donate the produce and products they wish to throw away.
“At this point, we believe it must cost grocery stores more to donate the excess products, and that’s why they send it to landfill,” she says. It isn’t that they don’t have the money to donate; it is that they choose not to.
“Of course, we take as much as we can to donate to charities including pet rescues and Lifeline bins.”
The Reclaim The Bin Gang insist it’s not about the free food and saving money, but making a statement to supermarkets about rethinking the way we deal with waste.
If you were moved by Reclaim The Bin and want to find out more, head to www.Facebook.com/reclaimthebin. Or if you want to start a conversation, share this post.
Q: What is your attitude to #ReclaimTheBin and the sharing of recycled and cleaned waste? Would you opt in or opt out?
-By Hannah Sbeghen