Food waste: How much food do supermarkets throw away? (CBC Marketplace)

>>This is “Marketplace”. Dumpster diving.>>Okay, this will disgust some people, but –>>What your supermarket doesn’t want you to see.>>This is a whole lot of food.>>Canadians trash 31 billion dollars worth of food a year from big box stores, to your shopping cart.>>I’m just going to throw it out for you in advance.>>No, no, no.>>Why is seemingly good food been thrown out in the garbage?>>This is your “Marketplace”.>>We’re gearing up, tackling a global problem. You know, I usually don’t have to wear this to go grocery shopping.>>There is a first time for everything.>>Okay, let’s give it a go.>>Taking you behind one of the largest grocery chains in the country.>>Okay, we got a lot of bins there.>>See what’s inside.>>In Canada alone we throw out $31 billion worth of food each year. We’re investigating how much of that ends up trashed behind big stores like Wal-Mart. Parmasan cheese, this is four months to go. Four months till its best before date. All right, best before date, salad, still three days from now. At this store just outside Toronto, we find 12 bins full of food. And most of it still looks good to eat.>>David, take a look at this. Packaged cauliflower. Not even past the best before date.>>This is just one visit. So is this unusual? Or the norm?>>David, these dark sweet cherries, they’re frozen, check out the best before date, March 23rd, 2018.>>So it’s almost two more years it could still be on the shelves. So I’ve pulled this celery out of a package. Give you an idea of how bad it is. Listen. Like that’s, when it makes that sound — >>It’s crunchy.>>We visit this Wal-Mart over a dozen times. Day after day, we find everything from produce to baked goods, dairy products. Even frozen foods. Not even in the compost. Just straight into the garbage. Why is so much seemingly good food going to waste? Maybe Wal-Mart has a good explanation. Time to reach out and ask them. While we wait for their response, I’m heading to Edmonton, Alberta. You’re saying the truck comes every day to empty these?>>Every day.>>To meet up with a former Wal-Mart manager. He is going public because he doesn’t agree with Walmart’s food waste policies.>>How much food are you throwing out in a given shift then?>>I would say at a daily average, a shopping cart goes to waste.>>A shopping cart worth of food.>>Yeah.>>Ali Zain Mevawala worked at this location for almost a year. What were you thinking when you were throwing away a grocery cart full of food on a shift?>>Um, I really felt bad because I know a lot of people in the city or in this country, even in this whole world, they don’t even get to eat proper food.>>What happens to an apple or a vegetable that is a bit bruised?>>I have to throw it.>>And that was a policy that you understood when you worked at this Wal-Mart?>>That’s correct.>>Ali Zain is not alone. We talk to Wal-Mart insiders from across the country who say throwing out shopping carts of food is common practice. To see if that’s true, we’re checking out another Wal-Mart store. All right, here’s some bins. Yeah, here we go.>>Packaged produce. This is fresh corn on the cob. There is nothing wrong with it.>>Lots of good food here, too. Okay, this will disgust some people, but — this is still good.>>Oh, I can’t believe you did that!>>Still good. In Canada, we waste billions of dollars worth of food every year. What goes through your mind when you hear that? Billions of dollars.>>That is a lot, a lot of money, and a lot of food. I’m from Pakistan. There is a lot of people that don’t have enough food to eat. So I guess we’re lucky that we’re having so much food here and we’re wasting it.>>After several E-mails and phone calls to Wal-Mart, they still won’t talk on camera. But after we tell them what we found in their trash bins? They do take some action. Check out what they have done. At the stores where we told them about all that food waste, well, those bins, they are now behind lock and key. We did get a message from Wal-Mart and they said the food we found was unsafe for consumption and add that they’re working to reduce how much is thrown out. They tell us these bins are typically locked to prevent access to product that’s unsafe. But then, why weren’t they locked up when we were here before? So, what’s happening at other retailers? Well, we just don’t know because they have got these sealed compactors and we can’t see inside. We’re starting to get a sense of the problem here in Canada. But it’s even bigger in the U.S. with 70 billion pounds of food wasted each year. So I’m travelling to Orlando, Florida to meet up with a guy who is doing something about it. Meet activist Rob Greenfield. I got my go-pro camera here so that we can get a look inside that dumpster if we have to climb in. He is passionate about not wasting. And has become an expert dumpster diver. Today we’re tagging along to find out how much good food we can find behind various grocery stores.>>Oh, that looks like a whole entire box full of food there. There is natural white cheddar cheese. I think we are just maybe hitting the tip of the iceberg here. It looks like there might be quite a bit.>>Rob’s visited about 2,000 grocery stores across the U.S., collecting food that’s still good to eat.>>This is a whole bag of salads.>>Still cool.>>Flowers. I don’t know if we need the flowers.>>I don’t know. My anniversary’s coming up. That might not work out. We have just started and already collected enough to make a meal.>>All right, put it in the van. You are diving into dumpsters. It sounds a little extreme.>>Yes. What I do is actually quite extreme. We’ve got quite a bit of food in here.>>Nearly 1.3 billion tonnes of food is trashed worldwide each year.>>These bags, a lot of time they’ll be one bad potato in a five or ten pound bag, so they throw away the whole thing. It’s being wasted from the farms to the distribution centres, to the grocery stores, restaurants, catering programs, to the individuals at home, it is being wasted everywhere, and so the entire system of food and the amount of food being wasted is a complete fiasco.>>Now, on a very hot day, time for a taste test. This is basically still good. Still fine.>>Yeah. All right, well it is right now about 80,000° so that feels pretty good. We decide to check out Wal-Mart to see if they are wasting food here in the U.S. too.>>That is a whole lot of food.>>Yeah, boy, is it ever. There is eggs and apples and cantaloupe and bagels and everything’s loose. But we can’t go any further. The bins, they are locked. This seasoned dumpster diver has seen it all. So when we show him what we found at some Wal-Mart stores in Canada? What do you think of what we found?>>It’s crazy amount of perfectly good food. And it’s amazing because I watch that and I’m blown away, because that could have been in a shopping cart or in someone’s pantry. It’s absolutely wrong. I don’t think in any advanced society there should be people that are hungry while there is food that was still good that’s going to waste. One box.>>After six hours of dumpster diving in Orlando, our van is full of food. And Rob wants to show it off, to prove a point. Okay, so should we start with fruits?>>Let’s, yeah, let’s make the melon the centre.>>With the help of Rob’s friends we’re putting together a large food waste display.>>What’s next? Candy. Mmm, that stuff looks good.>>Okay, we laid it all out. Now what?>>Now, this food is for the taking. Anybody who walks by and is interested and wants to get talking can take it home with them.>>Rob says grocery stores should donate good food to those who need it, food banks or shelters. But we’re told that would cost more money. It’s cheaper just to throw it away. It sounds like it’s one extra step. It is a bit more difficult for grocery store to do that.>>It is.>>Rather than to throw it in the garbage.>>It is. It’s one extra step. It takes a little bit more effort. But I believe that in an advanced society like the United States or Canada, that if there is people in need that we should take that extra step and help them.>>You got it. Nice catch. With hundreds of millions of people going hungry each year, it is easy to see how much of a difference that extra step would make.>>We just have so many hungry people, and it’s just ridiculous to see all this food that’s wasted.>>After weeks of sending E-mails and making phone calls to Wal-Mart, we still don’t really have the answers that we need. So there’s really only one thing left for us to do. With video footage in hand, we’re going to the store. You can’t afford to miss this. Get more “Marketplace”. Sign up for our weekly newsletter at>>Taking on food waste. This is your “Marketplace”.>>After months of research, and more than a dozen separate dives into Wal-Mart’s waste, we’ve found it all. Yogurt, poultry, baked goods, frozen dinners, even juices.>>The best before date is almost two months away. And it’s sealed.>>Perfectly edible food. All of it. Trashed. We’ve asked Wal-Mart several times to talk to us on camera, but they say no. So now, we’re going into the store where we found all that good food to get some answers. Surely, the store manager can explain. Hello, how are you?>>I’m good. How are you?>>I’m David with CBC “Marketplace”. We’re here because several times, in fact, more than a dozen times, we’ve actually gone to the bins behind this store and we’ve found good food in those bins. Why is seemingly good food being thrown out in the garbage?>>So I’m going to call my office, if you could just give me a few minutes.>>But you’re the store manager here.>>Yes. So we do have a reduce program that we use and our food goes to the waste program. So I’ll just be a couple minutes and I’ll be right back.>>Sebastian Vella says he needs to call head office. So we wait. And wait. Finally he comes back. We just don’t understand why there is food that seems like it’s still good for sale, that’s before its best before date, that looks like it’s okay. I mean, some of it is water. How does water ever go bad?>>Right, so I do have their number at the office and they can help you out with that.>>And what about those bins that are now locked up behind the store? When we first started looking it wasn’t locked up and then after we let Wal-Mart head office know we, what we’d found, it was suddenly locked up.>>Right, so like I said, I don’t have any answers for you. I’m not the right person.>>Okay. You don’t have any answers. Thank you for your time.>>And you don’t have my approval to tape me.>>No answers inside the store. So outside, we’re putting together our own food waste display. Showing shoppers what we found behind their Wal-Mart. Attention Wal-Mart shoppers, would you like to see how much food is being thrown out in this one store?>>I think it’s terrible. Why aren’t they giving it to shelters or to people that are begging for food on the street and will work for food? It’s disgusting.>>A woman’s shelter, whatever. I think it’s terrible.>>Well, it is unnecessary, absolutely.>>We tried to get Wal-Mart now to answer the question about why. And they didn’t answer us. When you don’t get answers, what do you make of that?>>Well, if I was asking that question and I wasn’t being answered, I would think that they don’t care. And I feel almost bad having come out of there.>>This is Alex.>>Hi, Alex. This is David Common with CBC “Marketplace”, calling. So after months and months of trying to get an on camera interview –>>One-third of all food…>>CBC investigation has discovered –>>It’s only after our story hits the news that Wal-Mart agree. So I came to Vancouver to meet with Alex Roberton, senior director of corporate affairs. We found quite a bit of food waste over many days behind many Wal-Marts. Is this something Wal-Mart wants to change?>>Absolutely, absolutely, yeah. We want zero good food going into landfill. We want zero good food going to waste. We want to donate as much as we can. We want to sell as much as we can.>>Are you going to take steps to make sure that happens?>>We are. Over the past 12 months, we’ve really been ramping up our efforts to address food waste.>>What I don’t understand is how you could have so many bins out the back of multiple stores, day after day after day, that are full of seemingly good food. You can’t have that much returned.>>For sure, there is mistakes that are being made and that’s one of the things we need to do is tighten up the execution of our instore processes so that the food going into the bins, we need to be more certain that that is food that needs to be thrown out.>>You get that food waste is a problem, and you’re a part of that problem.>>Exactly, yeah. I think we feel that we’re on the right track. We have a lot of work to do to get where we want to be.>>Can we come back and check in with you?>>Absolutely, I wish you would, yeah.>>In Canada, we leave it up to supermarkets like Wal-Mart to police their own food waste. But other countries have taken action. France recently banned food waste. Requiring supermarkets to give it to local charities and shelters. Italy offers a tax break to grocers who do that. Some U.S. states have also taken action. What’s Canada gonna do? Well, we’re going to ask the federal minister of agriculture. Morning, minister, David with CBC “Marketplace”. Good to meet you.>>Good to say hello.>>Currently, there is no policy to address food waste in Canada but Lawrence MacCauley says that could change. Other countries have already adopted food policies, particularly around food waste. Why has Canada not done something like that yet?>>We think it’s important to do, it was in my mandate and we are going to do it.>>I want to give you the opportunity to just acknowledge that food waste is an issue, if you so believe it.>>Oh, I believe that food waste will be looked at in the policy when we — >>Is it a problem in Canada? I mean, is it something that needs to be addressed?>>Well, what we want to do is to address the total food policy issue in this country.>>So Canada is not cracking down on supermarket waste, yet. When we showed Canadians what we found behind stores, they said that should be illegal.>>Obviously what you’re earmarking is obviously a problem, if there is food out there that’s wasted.>>Do you think it’s time for the Government of Canada to take a stand on this?>>We will come up with a national food policy, hopefully that will be very helpful to the consumer and the producer, and everybody else in between.>>MacCaulay says it will be another year before his food policy comes out. Until then, Canada is still way behind.>>The biggest wasters of all? You! This is what you are throwing out. Boom.>>Well, my heart is racing, because I feel like it’s so expensive and wasteful.>>Now we are thinking.>>This is your “Marketplace”.>>Time to face what’s in your trash. We’ve gone through the garbages in grocery stores. Now it’s time to take a bin into a store to challenge customers to see what it is that they are buying and what they throw out. Every year Canadians toss out more than $14 billion worth of food at home. Food waste happens in a lot of places. Does it happen in your home?>>Yeah, I waste a bit of food for sure.>>Turns out, we all throw out one in five bags of the groceries we buy. Why? Chances are we’re buying way more than we need. What do you have in your bag? I don’t want you to panic about what I’m about to do. We have a compost bin here, and I’m just going to throw it out for you in advance.>>No, no. That’s all right.>>So I’m showing shoppers what typically ends up in green bins. And what they can do to reduce their waste. Your broccoli, any sense of how much of that usually gets thrown out? About 25%.>>I picked that. That was really nice broccoli!>>That was a really nice broccoli, yeah.>>The thing about tomatoes is you got the wrong guy here so I really like tomatoes, a lot I’m like obsessed with them, so I’m gonna eat them like fast.>>You like them enough that you’ve put them on your body.>>Yeah, those are going quick.>>Okay. Well let me try to horrify you if you were like most Canadians who don’t have a tattoo of tomatoes, this is what you are throwing out. Boom. You look uncomfortable.>>I am uncomfortable.>>But we’re just doing what statistics tell us Canadians do. In fact, about half of the food we throw out at home? Fruits and vegetables. Hey, where are those strawberries? They look great, don’t they?>>I picked the best ones!>>They look really good.>>Well, my heart is racing because I feel like it’s so expensive and wasteful.>>Okay, so regular, almond milk, we throw out 15%. If you’re the average Canadian family you’re gonna throw that out.>>Wow. That’s crazy.>>Okay, so if I pull your bananas here there is six of them. The average Canadian wastes one and a 1/4 of them.>>Oh really.>>When you walk into a grocery store and you have a guy at the check out throwing your food out, what’s going through your mind?>>I just threw away money.>>Some uncomfortable moments there. People had no idea we are going to be tossing their food like that. But in a way, we’re just doing what people would end up doing themselves in their own homes. So we’re going on a neighbourhood spot-check. In Brampton, Ontario. Meet Owen, Irene and Gord Moss. Like many families, when it comes to food waste, they think they are doing a good job. Do you think you’re any more or any less than anyone else?>>I think we are pretty well average.>>Let’s take a peek. How much of what we see in here gets thrown out?>>I would, on a percentage basis, I would say probably 20 to 25%.>>For the Moss family, that means $1,000 of groceries tossed each year. And that’s on par with the average family in this country. What do you guys think about how much food is wasted by people just like you?>>Well, I think it’s a disgrace. We should value food a lot better than we do.>>We’ve talked to the Moss family about how much they throw out. But it makes you wonder how much food waste we all produce. After all, almost half of it takes place in our own homes. So we’re taking them on a field trip to a nearby waste facility so we can see just how much is being tossed on a daily basis. All right. So here it is.>>Wow, wow, that’s incredible.>>Pretty stinky.>>They’re shocked. And this is only food waste. From a couple of neighbourhoods, over a few hours. Believe it or not, this is just a couple of trucks. And those trucks come constantly all day. Behind us is a room full of this. It’s a football field size. There is 2,000 tonnes of mostly food waste in there.>>Incredible.>>For safety reasons, we’re not allowed in there.>>We take a lot for granted. We really do. It’s just available. So you just buy it. If you don’t want it, you throw it out.>>But now we’re thinking.>>Yeah, we sure are.>>And that’s the idea. Think before you buy. Think before you waste. Whether you’re a family or a big retailer. Okay, now you’ve seen it. Now you’ve smelled it. Let’s get out of here.>>Great. Thanks for having us.>>Next week on “Marketplace”. House hunting under cover. Real estate agents caught on camera.>>I can coach you kind of, what price to put.>>We would have loved to know what the number was.>>Breaking the rules.>>Their offer is $890 with another agent.>>We’d be looking for maximum penalties.>>Secret deals, broken dreams.>>We decided it was the perfect house for us.

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