Reporter finds it hard to find edible food in dustbins

For three days, I visited the refuse areas of markets and wholesale centres to find out who "lives off the land" - or makes use of the immense amount of food wastage that is generated every day.

I looked forward to trying out dumpster diving, thinking it would be like a treasure hunt.

Years ago, a colleague went dumpster diving and wrote positively about the experience.

But while she looked for household items and sundries, I was supposed to forage for what could be a meal.

On the first day of my adventure at Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, I found myself staring into a filthy bin that contained a "rojak" of vegetables. I was fiercely debating in my head if people actually ate them. In the end, I left when my gut turned from staring at the bin for too long.

My only find of the day was a watermelon by the side of the road, which some mynahs were staking their claim on.

So imagine my joy the next day when I came across boxes of tomatoes, which looked fresh.

Placed neatly next to the bins, I thought I had struck the jackpot until someone came over and claimed the tomatoes as his.

What about canned or dried foodstuffs in the bins? Surely those are safer to eat?

JACKPOT

As it turned out, canned foodstuff nearing their expiry dates are not thrown away into bins. They are, instead, usually sent back to the suppliers for replacements.

As for the dried foodstuff I saw, such as grains, they were poured out of their plastic packets and into the bins to be mixed with all the other trash.

I was not the only one on the prowl - there was competition from the cardboard aunties.

They rummaged through unwanted vegetables that were given by the wholesalers and still in their packaging, before emptying the whole lot into the bin.

There is a lot of food wastage generated by us, and yes, some people manage to salvage some of it. But to cut the approximately 790,000 tonnes of food wasted a year, we need to start further up along the process.

When shops are determined to keep shelves full all day, there is bound to be wastage.

I do not blame them. Shoppers like full shelves, which explains why you see supermarkets chock-full of produce all the time. Consumers also reject ugly fruits and vegetables, resulting in edible food getting discarded.

It really is up to each of us to change how we shop, and perhaps that can eventually encourage companies to make changes to further address the issue of food wastage.

ngjunsen@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 1, 2016.
Get The New Paper for more stories.