​In Germany, activists battle food waste with dumpster diving - GulfToday

In Germany, activists battle food waste with dumpster diving

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Hundreds of activists hope that they can force the industry to take action to end food waste.

Wearing a balaclava and a headlamp under the cover of night, Andrea slips under an imposing fence into the backyard of a Berlin supermarket.

After a few steps, he reaches his target -- a rubbish bin overflowing with pasta, tropical fruits and truffle olive oil, all still in their packaging and, at least visibly, ready for consumption.

"You've got to be fast, respect the sites and most importantly, evade police because it is illegal in Germany to take unsold goods from a bin.

A master's student in physics, 22-year-old Andrea, who declined to give his full name, said he was not dumpster diving out of financial need.

"I'm fighting the system that's based on over-consumption. My grandmother always said: 'don't throw food away'. But people prefer to dump things rather than give them away for free," he complained.

Carrying a penalty reaching up to hundreds of euros (dollars), dumpster diving is considered theft in Germany.

Nevertheless, hundreds of activists across Germany still choose to carry on in the hope that they can force the industry to take action to end food waste.

 

11 million tonnes

Government data show that 11 million tonnes of food are dumped annually in Germany.

The WWF believes that the scale of the problem is up to 18 million tonnes a year if agricultural waste is included.

In a case that sparked waves in Germany, two students were sentenced in January for "serious theft" to eight hours of social work and 225 euros in fines each for having taken items from a supermarket bin.

"Anyone who has looked into a supermarket dump is immediately hit by the amplitude of the trash that's still consumable," the two students, who only wanted to be identified as Caro and Franzi, told AFP.

Their case has become the clarion call in the fight to decriminalise dumpster diving.

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The city state of Hamburg is now also considering legalising dumpster diving.

Risk of contamination?

The food and agriculture ministry has however warned that consuming food that has been disposed of could have health consequences as "the cold chain has been interrupted and that could lead to contamination".

Supermarkets are already working "very well" with food banks on a voluntary basis, added the ministry.

Franzi and Caro also said there was little chance that the problem could be solved if there were only voluntary measures.

"We've only got one planet. The massive food waste problem across the world is one of the causes of global warming of the planet. We have to take immediate action," they said in an email.

Agence France-Presse