Activist finds kilograms of fresh food and suitable things in New York dumps

    15 Aug 2021

    Anna Sachs, a 30-year-old New York resident and environmental activist, dumps herself in garbage dumps and shares on social media that citizens and businesses are throwing away many suitable products and other goods, The Guardian reports.

    She find out that some businesses intentionally damage goods so that other people cannot use them later.

    Anna started doing “garbage walks,” as she calls them, in 2018. She posts videos and photos on Instagram and TikTok using the nickname @thetrashwalker.

    Her findings are impressive. Among her posts is a post about how she found 11 undamaged packets of $363 coffee beans in a dump in a restaurant. Another time, she found 18 kilograms of packaged drinks and food worth $528 among the waste of one trade network. Many of the products she finds in landfills have an ultimately marketable appearance, and their expiration date has not yet expired.

    Some businesses intentionally damage goods so that other people cannot use them after they end up in landfills. Yes, Anna rummages in the dump of a drugstore in Manhattan (she protect her hands from accidental needles with thick gloves) and finds cut protein bars, squeezed tubes of toothpaste, palettes from which shadows were shaken, and so on.

    Its readers also share their videos and stories. So, one employee of an office furniture store told how the manager ordered him to cut an office chair with a knife and then made sure that it ended up in the dump. A situation where a worker is forced to destroy something he might need and may not be able to afford looks like an episode of anti-utopia. In general, the destruction of goods that failed to sell out is a separate story. The government banned such a practice in France for certain categories of goods.

    People throw away whole bags of jewelry and other holiday props during the holidays: Christmas napkins and tablecloths, souvenir plates for Valentine’s Day, sports merch, and more.

    Anna also checks the dumps of ordinary people and finds that people generally lack education in waste disposal. Toys or ceramics that are not recycled are often thrown away, but people could well reuse these things.

    During 2020, New Yorkers generated nearly 10,000 tons of waste daily. About two-thirds of the garbage collected goes to an incinerator in New Jersey. The rest ends up in landfills.

    There are other Instagram accounts that highlight the possibilities of dumpster diving and regifting, like @stoopingnyc. But more than publicizing discarded loveseats and Ikea dressers left on the street, Sacks’s work shines a light on the shame and indignity of producing this much waste – by showcasing just a fraction of the usable food, clothing, housewares, and more that gets thrown out every day.

    Sacks’s trash walks have captured media attention over the years. In 2019, the Today Show joined Sacks on a trash walk, hitting five different CVS locations. In January 2020, the New York Post accompanied Sacks as she went through Starbucks’ trash and found that the trade chain “throw[s] away a king’s feast of unsold food every night.” (Within a week of their story’s publication, Starbucks announced new goals to reduce landfill waste.)

    The immense scale of waste requires large-scale solutions

    As the climate crisis continues, the need to reduce and divert waste has never been higher. In the 2020 fiscal year, New York City residents produced just under 10,000 tons of waste every day, according to a report from the department of sanitation. Once it’s collected, none of it stays in New York City; roughly two-thirds of Manhattan’s residential waste goes to a waste-to-energy facility in Essex county, New Jersey. The rest of the city’s non-recyclable waste ends up in landfills and other waste-to-energy facilities in upstate New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Virginia.

    For decades, dumpster divers and freegans have brought attention to the vast quantities of food that gets thrown out by grocery stores and restaurants every day. They have searched other people’s trash to support themselves. In recent years, the rise of stooping and Buy Nothing groups has hinged on the idea of an economy of sharing, in which goods and services are exchanged freely between people who need them.

    Anna promotes the idea that some garbage is considered so only because it is in the landfill. If this or that suitable thing ended up in, say, your living room, it would not be considered garbage. That is, the only problem is how to organize the redistribution of unnecessary things so that they get to those who need them. While at the end of the day, bakery workers rake dozens of fresh donuts and baguettes into a waste container, at the other end of town, volunteers raise money for lunches for the homeless.

    Sometimes this is a matter of logistics, sometimes of US law and licensing. However, the latter is not such a problem. Yet in 1996, Congress passed the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act in order to create a national standard around the liability faced by food donors, as state laws vary widely. The act offers protection from criminal and civil liability to people who donate food that meets certain requirements to nonprofit organizations. Restaurants and retail grocers are covered under the act, but Sacks argues not enough people or businesses know about it or take advantage of it.

    Indeed, the American penchant for viewing corporations as the victims of undue government overreach is on full display in the comments section of Sacks’ Instagram and TikTok pages.

    “It’s really an interesting phenomenon, [of] humanizing corporations and thinking of them as humans with feelings,” she says. “There is a lot of trust in corporations, and there is distrust in government, and I think those are going to be barriers.”

    Some of us are already persuaded of the need for sustainability and a more circular economy; sometimes, the utility of someone else’s trash is obvious. The evening of our trash walk, Sacks showed me the many doughnuts and bagels left in bags outside a Dunkin’. It wasn’t long before a man approached us and asked if he could have some to eat. When he said he wishes he had a plate, Sacks looked through the haul of items she’d just collected. “If you want, I can give you this plastic box,” she said, quick to add it wasn’t clean.

    Later that night, as an activist and The Guardian journalist passed another building’s recycling piles, Anna stopped to point out a perfectly good bulk dog-food container, which she has seen left out on the street before. “The plastic containers are never-ending,” she said.

    In 2020, France banned the disposal of unsold clothing

    In France, it’s forbidden to throw away or destroy designer clothes, cosmetics, and electrical goods that could not be sold. This is stated in a law passed by parliament on January 30, 2020, The Guardian states. Unsold goods must be resold or donated to charity or at least recycled.

    According to it, unsold goods must be resold or donated to charity or at least recycled.

    The law also provides for the phasing out of paper checks and disposable plastic. In particular, the use of plastic bottles should be halved over the next decade, and catering and delivery services will have to abandon plastic containers by 2023.

    In addition, the law recommends that pharmacies sell drugs in individual doses so that unused pills do not end up in landfills.

    Manufacturers will be required to pay for the disposal of waste generated after the use of their products. For example, starting next year, tobacco companies will have to pay for the disposal of cigarette filters. This also applies to manufacturers of toys, sporting goods, building materials.

    According to Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, €650 million worth of goods are dumped in France every year.

    The publication calls the law, which France passed first in the world, revolutionary. Since 2016, the country has banned supermarkets from throwing away food – otherwise, there is a fine of 10 thousand euros. At the same time, the new law does not provide for punishment for non-compliance.

    Also, there’s an interesting fact that, from the beginning of 2020, supermarkets in Geneva will be fined for offering disposable plastic bags.

    You may read about a fire that broke out at the world’s largest tire dump in Kuwait here.

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