Sometimes reporters luck out and just happen to be in the exact right place at the exact right time! This is what happened to CNN reporters recently in the middle of an interview with Adam Smith in Leeds, UK. Adam has opened a “rubbish removal supermarket” of sorts. He collects donations of food waste from grocery stores, including produce and other “expired” food that is about to be binned and no longer for sale, and he puts this rubbish removal in a big warehouse for shoppers to glean what they want!
Right in the middle of the CNN interview, the health department unexpectedly raided Adam’s place! Besides the CNN crew, about five hundred shoppers looked on! This included families with children who had shopping trollies full to the brim with the rubbish removal food that Adam and others had rescued and diverted from landfills! Adam defiantly warned the health inspectors who were raiding the place, in the presence of the CNN reporters and camera crew, that if they shut him down, he would go very public with the story.
It’s hard to know for sure if the presence of the CNN crew helped Adam’s defiant threat work but the rubbish removal supermarket was not shut down — at least not that day! Diverting food waste removal from landfills and helping people in the process is near and dear to Adam’s heart as he is well known to help serve the UK’s homeless population as well.
The rubbish removal supermarket diverts between two and ten tonnes of food per day from landfills, giving it to people who need it most. The donations from stores are pouring in, with one store donating twenty pallets of noodles, a favorite food for families with kids. With baskets of bread, fruit, potatoes, purple eggplant, green beans, lettuce, and corn, no wonder people love to shop here. There’s also rows of fruit juices, dairy products, and many other foods to choose from.
Some people jokingly call the rubbish removal supermarket the “Anti Supermarket” and they simply pay whatever they can or take the food for free. Even though the “sell by date” may have expired, the food is perfectly safe to eat. The human race started as hunters and gatherers. The rubbish removal supermarket in Leeds gives people the opportunity to return to these roots as they hunt and gather through the warehouse of food that would have otherwise gone to the landfill.
This situation is reminiscent of a similar rubbish removal battle involving food waste that took place in Santa Cruz California in the late 1980s. A small group of volunteers who ran a soup kitchen would collect leftover food from local restaurants to feed the homeless and anyone else who needed a hot meal. The food was destined to go into the waste removal bins so the restaurants were glad to help out.
Many of the people who received this free rubbish removal food were Vietnam War vets who were homeless in the area. The recipients also included others down on their luck, such as University of California students struggling to pay the high rents in the area with little money left over to pay for groceries. Everyone who received these free meals seemed grateful and most people in the community were proud of the effort.
Regardless of the good will being generated and the people being helped, the health department came down hard on the practice. They sent put warnings that this violated the health code laws. They threatened to arrest the volunteers who were collecting and distributing the food waste removal. This was major front page news in the local paper and the public outcries were numerous. The woman who ran the soup kitchen defied the health department’s orders repeatedly and she was indeed arrested. The whole community rallied behind her but they continued to hold her in jail.
Around the same time, in another community on the opposite side of the Monterey Bay, only fifty miles away, another group of rubbish removal food waste volunteers did their humanitarian work in secret after being harassed by the health department. Large black sacks of leftover bread from local bakeries would “mysteriously” appear on the volunteers’ front or back porches around the crack of dawn and then this bread would somehow “magically” get distributed to families in need.
These are just a few examples of the extraordinary efforts some people have to take to divert food rubbish removal from our landfills and distribute it instead to people in our society who need it most. While health codes and other laws are intended to protect us, overzealous application of these laws sometimes defy logic and doing what’s right! Will this change?
When existing laws get in the way of diverting food waste from our landfills and feeding the hungry, perhaps it’s time to change the law! Over the next decade, it may take protests by citizens to get our elected politicians to take serious notice and change our laws so they accommodate what reasonable people see as a necessary step to solving our rubbish removal and humanitarian crises.
Daniel Long, the founder of Clearabee, the private rubbish removal company based in the UK, had a vision from the beginning of his company to divert as much waste removal from our landfills as possible. To this end, Clearabee has been making deals with restaurants and grocery stores to clear their rubbish removal on a regular basis and divert this from our landfills. Kudos to him, Adam Smith, and all the other social entrepreneurs who are finding solutions to these complex problems.