Food Waste: Exposing Denmark’s Supermarket Scandal

Food Waste: Matt Homewood with food waste consisting of meat and seafood.

“Seeing comes before words” as the late storyteller John Berger once wrote.

With over half of our brain’s surface area devoted to processing visual information, we humans respond intuitively to powerful images. And it is this evolutionary hardwiring that I try to exploit through my photography-based food waste activism.

Food Waste in Denmark

It’s just past noon on a winter’s day in Denmark meaning that there is now finally enough natural light entering my fourth-floor apartment for me to get to work photographing last night’s dumpster-dived Urban Harvest.

Laying out kilograms upon kilograms of perfectly edible food on my living room floor is more time-consuming that you might think, but it is these laborious art displays that stir people to express their shock horror via social media networks.

Urban Harvesting is hugely popular in Denmark, and, no wonder, the country’s 2,700 supermarkets jettison 163 million kilograms of food every year – 23% of the nation’s total food waste – which equates to 391 million meals. One kilogram of food is the equivalent of 2.4 meals. Reframing food waste is critical if we are to comprehend the full scale of this issue, which is why I use human-scale terms like kilograms, not tonnes. Unlike their British counterparts, which officially declare 277 million kilograms of annual wasted food, Danish supermarkets at least have the decency of making the vast majority of their dumpsters accessible to the public.

So, once stores have closed for the day, I collect my equipment – a 90-litre backpack, a pair of gloves, two headlamps, and a smartphone – and cycle to my three local supermarket dumpsters to document and harvest a fraction of the daily food waste tsunami, ranging from 153 kilograms of dairy cream to 800 eggs, 157 packets of bacon or 180 bags of coffee. Fresh produce, like Chilean blueberries for example, is often flown thousands of miles to end up in the trash.

The Modern Supermarket

After exposing supermarkets’ dirty secrets for over two years in one of the world’s “most sustainable” cities, Copenhagen, it is clear that the political elite and their associated organisations have allocated too many resources to highlighting citizens’ discarded comestibles and too little time to tackling the businesses which have a disproportionate impact on the entire food system’s food loss and food waste: the modern supermarket.

My investigations have revealed that supermarket food waste is embedded into their business model. Companies are keeping the prices on soon-to-be-expired food products too high, for too long, in relation to their legal “expiry” dates. Put simply, they are hoarding because they can afford to, as the financial penalties for dumping this still edible but overpriced food in the trash are not fit for purpose. The ever-worsening climate and biodiversity crises mean we must solve this issue as soon as possible.

Food Waste’s Solutions

Food banks are often seen as the solution, yet in 2020, Denmark’s network only saved 1.4 million kilograms of supermarket “waste” from the dumpster, i.e. 0.8% of supermarkets’ annual total. The six internationally acclaimed WeFood social supermarkets fared even worse, selling only 358,000 kilograms of the “waste” inherited from their commercial counterparts, a meagre 0.2%.

Mobile apps like Denmark’s Too Good To Go – now worth £332 million – are hailed as giving consumers the chance to “save the planet” by buying discounted produce in so-called Magic Bags. In reality, supermarket bosses impose a daily cap of five bags per store; the 77% discount and commission on goods sold through the app is seemingly too tough to swallow. So around the back, the dumpsters are still full.

To me, the best way to fight this abuse of market power would be a significant food waste tax to compel supermarkets to mark down expiring food products much earlier, and to a price point which convinces customers to buy them.

By etching these food waste photographs deep into people’s minds, my hope is that Urban Harvesters across the west can disrupt supermarkets’ business models, so that, in time, we can transition to a fairer and more sustainable food system based on agro-ecological principles.

An earlier version of this piece ran in Wicked Leeks, a magazine on sustainable food and ethical business, published by Riverford Organic Farmers.

168 thoughts on “Food Waste: Exposing Denmark’s Supermarket Scandal”

  1. I am a website designer. Recently, I am designing a website template about gate.io. The boss’s requirements are very strange, which makes me very difficult. I have consulted many websites, and later I discovered your blog, which is the style I hope to need. thank you very much. Would you allow me to use your blog style as a reference? thank you!

  2. I am a website designer. Recently, I am designing a website template about gate.io. The boss’s requirements are very strange, which makes me very difficult. I have consulted many websites, and later I discovered your blog, which is the style I hope to need. thank you very much. Would you allow me to use your blog style as a reference? thank you!

  3. I am a website designer. Recently, I am designing a website template about gate.io. The boss’s requirements are very strange, which makes me very difficult. I have consulted many websites, and later I discovered your blog, which is the style I hope to need. thank you very much. Would you allow me to use your blog style as a reference? thank you!

  4. I am a student of BAK College. The recent paper competition gave me a lot of headaches, and I checked a lot of information. Finally, after reading your article, it suddenly dawned on me that I can still have such an idea. grateful. But I still have some questions, hope you can help me.

  5. I am a student of BAK College. The recent paper competition gave me a lot of headaches, and I checked a lot of information. Finally, after reading your article, it suddenly dawned on me that I can still have such an idea. grateful. But I still have some questions, hope you can help me.

  6. I am a student of BAK College. The recent paper competition gave me a lot of headaches, and I checked a lot of information. Finally, after reading your article, it suddenly dawned on me that I can still have such an idea. grateful. But I still have some questions, hope you can help me.

  7. I may need your help. I’ve been doing research on gate io recently, and I’ve tried a lot of different things. Later, I read your article, and I think your way of writing has given me some innovative ideas, thank you very much.

  8. I may need your help. I’ve been doing research on gate io recently, and I’ve tried a lot of different things. Later, I read your article, and I think your way of writing has given me some innovative ideas, thank you very much.

  9. I may need your help. I’ve been doing research on gate io recently, and I’ve tried a lot of different things. Later, I read your article, and I think your way of writing has given me some innovative ideas, thank you very much.

  10. I may need your help. I’ve been doing research on gate io recently, and I’ve tried a lot of different things. Later, I read your article, and I think your way of writing has given me some innovative ideas, thank you very much.

  11. I may need your help. I’ve been doing research on gate io recently, and I’ve tried a lot of different things. Later, I read your article, and I think your way of writing has given me some innovative ideas, thank you very much.

  12. I may need your help. I’ve been doing research on gate io recently, and I’ve tried a lot of different things. Later, I read your article, and I think your way of writing has given me some innovative ideas, thank you very much.

  13. I may need your help. I tried many ways but couldn’t solve it, but after reading your article, I think you have a way to help me. I’m looking forward for your reply. Thanks.

  14. I may need your help. I tried many ways but couldn’t solve it, but after reading your article, I think you have a way to help me. I’m looking forward for your reply. Thanks.

  15. I may need your help. I tried many ways but couldn’t solve it, but after reading your article, I think you have a way to help me. I’m looking forward for your reply. Thanks.

  16. I may need your help. I tried many ways but couldn’t solve it, but after reading your article, I think you have a way to help me. I’m looking forward for your reply. Thanks.

  17. I may need your help. I tried many ways but couldn’t solve it, but after reading your article, I think you have a way to help me. I’m looking forward for your reply. Thanks.

  18. I may need your help. I tried many ways but couldn’t solve it, but after reading your article, I think you have a way to help me. I’m looking forward for your reply. Thanks.

  19. I may need your help. I tried many ways but couldn’t solve it, but after reading your article, I think you have a way to help me. I’m looking forward for your reply. Thanks.

  20. Okay here are the details. I want to add a new button to firefox, the purpose of that button is that when i type something in the address bar in firefox and click that button in navigation toolbar, that must serve the purpose of “I am feeling lucky button on google homepage”. Any super genius here?.

  21. My friend and I have been discussing personal blogs and online journaling. She feels that personal feelings and such should not expressed in such open forums. I see no problem with it. Share your thoughts:. 1. Do you blog or journal?. 2. Do you prefer face to face expression of feelings over written communication?.

  22. There are definitely a variety of details like that to take into consideration. That is a nice level to bring up. I provide the thoughts above as common inspiration however clearly there are questions just like the one you bring up the place the most important factor will probably be working in trustworthy good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged around issues like that, but I’m sure that your job is clearly recognized as a good game. Each girls and boys feel the impact of only a moment?s pleasure, for the remainder of their lives.

  23. Your article gave me a lot of inspiration, I hope you can explain your point of view in more detail, because I have some doubts, thank you.

  24. Your article gave me a lot of inspiration, I hope you can explain your point of view in more detail, because I have some doubts, thank you.

  25. I was recommended this website by my cousin. I am not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my difficulty. You are wonderful! Thanks!

  26. The amount of effort that you put into it was very impressive to observe. However, despite the fact that the layout is appealing and the wording is elegant, it appears that you are having difficulty with it. It is my opinion that you should make an effort to send the subsequent article. In the event that you do not safeguard this hike, I will most certainly return for more of the same.

  27. I have been diligently seeking information on this subject for quite some time, and yours is the most compelling piece I have come across thus far. Nevertheless, with that being stated, what is the final verdict? Are you certain regarding the supply?

  28. Pingback: is tadalafil as effective as cialis

  29. I wonder how much work goes into creating a website this excellent and educational. I’ve read a few really good things here, and it’s definitely worth saving for future visits.

  30. Pingback: 2 grams of azithromycin for syphilis

  31. Pingback: gabapentin fertility

  32. Pingback: zoloft and sleep

  33. Pingback: flagyl periodontite

  34. Pingback: escitalopram forgetful

  35. Pingback: difference between dog and human cephalexin

  36. Pingback: keflex for pilonidal cyst

  37. Pingback: is fluoxetine like prozac

  38. Pingback: real viagra online canadian pharmacy

  39. Pingback: lexapro for anxiety

  40. Pingback: cymbalta recall 2021

  41. Pingback: how long to get duloxetine out of your system

  42. Pingback: ciprofloxacin package insert

  43. Pingback: cephalexin for tooth infection

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *