Sharing instead of wasting – how volunteers in Germany try to fight food waste
We all know the problem: the big freshly baked loaf of bread looked too tasty not to buy it. A week later the remaining bread is stale and moldy and we throw it away. This might seem like a little thing, but it adds up. Every year, a third of the global food production goes into the bin according to studies done by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO). In the spirit of “think global, act local”, the initiative “Foodsharing”, formerly known as “lebensmittelretten” was founded to tackle this problem on a local scale. In Germany alone, around eleven million tons of food are wasted every year. In private households 47% of the food wastage would be avoidable (1).
From “dumpster diving” to Foodsharing – a network is forming
The beginnings of the initiative can be found in two German cities, Cologne and Berlin, in 2012. The inspiration was drawn from the movie “Taste the waste” from Valentin Thurn, which demonstrated the huge dimensions of food waste portraying for example people who lived of the still edible food taken from the supermarkets’ waste containers, so called “dumpster divers”.
In Cologne the online-platform “foodsharing.de” was invented to allow private individuals to share still edible food which would otherwise be thrown away because they bought too much or because they are going on vacation.
At the same time in Berlin, a similar initiative “lebensmittelretten” was founded by Raphael Fellmer, a motivated “dumpster diver”, who lives on food that would be thrown away by supermarkets. Several companies were contacted and asked to collaborate. The first supermarket to cooperate was the organic supermarket “Bio-Company” which allowed members of the initiatives, the so called “foodsavers”, to pick up the food that passed the best-before-date and would otherwise been thrown away.
These two ideas developed in parallel and in December 2014 they agreed on joining forces as a common initiative named “foodsharing”.
“Fair-Teiler” – an innovative idea
But still, open questions need to be solved: “where to store the food that has been saved?”, “how to distribute it among people in need?” “how to coordinate the foodsavers and the supermarkets?”. One part of the solution is called “Fair-Teiler” (“fair-redistributer”). The “Fair-Teiler” is a place to store and share food (see picture). It’s usually a fridge or a shelf, which is hosted by members of the initiative or collaborative green businesses and is publicly available. Everyone, member or not, can bring food to or pick up food from that place. Several places like this exist in Berlin and the idea is already spreading to other cities.
Foodsavers on a mission
Thanks to the initiative, more than 6500 Foodsavers now legally reduce food wastage by redistribution (> 1.8 million kg food saved so far). Including Austria and Switzerland around 80.000 Foodsharers are registered to share food on a private basis. While they communicate mostly via the online-platform, the members also act locally in their own neighborhood.
Foodsharing is aiming to spread the idea all over Europe. The goal is to imitate and copy the initiative by making the concept and platform open source and easy to adapt.
1. Bundesministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz, 2012