What a waste: film focuses on tossed-out food

Film looks at dumpster diving for food

OLIVIA WANNAN
Last updated 05:00 17/06/2014
food waste film
CAMERON BURNELL/ Fairfax NZ

TIME FOR ACTION: From left, producer Ruby Judson, director Steph Miller and cinematographer Zixi Wang (left to right) shine the light on local food waste for their Victoria University film project. 

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Every day tonnes of nutritious, unspoiled food is thrown away across the country - and five Victoria University students are on a crusade to highlight our wasteful ways.

As part of a film paper, Steph Miller, Josh Clapp, Ruby Judson, Gussie Larkin and Zixi Wang looked at the emergence of dumpster diving in New Zealand.

While eating food from supermarket and cafe rubbish bins might seem extreme, a growing number of people are choosing to eat discarded food for social and environmental reasons.

Miller and her fellow film-makers saw exactly why this was when they were invited by a local dumpster diver, known in the film as Knobs, on one of his collection runs.

"We were astounded by the amount of food thrown away. Bags and bags of stuff - fresh produce, bread that had been baked fresh that day. In one dumpster there was 10kg of bacon."

They have turned what they have learned into a 10-minute short film, which was screened privately last night.

Knowing there were New Zealand families going hungry, it seemed unbelievable so much was going to waste.

And, as the crew discovered when they dined on bacon sandwiches made from Knobs' spoils, the items were of perfectly fine quality.

Knobs, a full-time worker and student, paid for a very small proportion of his food, surviving mostly on items he collected from dumpster diving and from hunting.

In these times of global food-sourcing and packaged and processed grub, people had become very disconnected from food, and blind to wasting it, Miller said.

The common practice of tossing out everything on its best-before date was one example. "We really have lost the art of knowing if our food is good or not."

One solution touched on in the film was food rescue, with the team speaking to Wellington's Kaibosh charity. Since starting in 2008, the service has rescued 100 tonnes of food destined for the landfill and turned them into 285,000 meals for those in need.

But Miller acknowledged it was a tough problem. By giving away food to those who needed it, corporations could be held responsible if anyone became sick, she said.

Legislation now before Parliament could see a "Good Samaritan" clause made law, meaning companies that give away food in good faith would be protected.

The crew also hoped the message to minimise waste grabbed the public's attention - and if their short film, which is headed for the film festival circuit, did not do it, their planned feature-length doco might, Miller said.

"When you throw out a packet of bacon, you're also throwing out all of the food that animal was fed as well - plus all the plastic and all the resources that went into it. All for nothing."

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- The Dominion Post

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