Photo of dumpster filled with frozen food outside grocery store causes concern: ‘It’s demoralizing and heartbreaking’
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Photo of dumpster filled with frozen food outside grocery store causes concern: ‘It’s demoralizing and heartbreaking’

It’s not uncommon for dumpster divers to find shocking amounts of perfectly good products destined for landfills. Now, a Redditor is calling attention to the significant amount of food waste he discovered in the bin of his local Dollar Tree.

What happened?

The Redditor posted two photos showing a dumpster filled with boxes of food.

"The worst part of diving."
Photo source: Reddit
"The worst part of diving."
Photo source: Reddit

“The worst part of diving,” they wrote on the r/DumpsterDiving subreddit. “There’s ice cream, fries, pizza and God knows what else. As far as I know, everything is frozen. Everything was warm. It’s demoralizing and heartbreaking to see how much food goes to waste!”

“It’s very sad,” one commenter agreed.

Why is this disturbing?

Growing and packaging food takes resources and energy, and when the food isn’t used, a lot of money is wasted. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, as much as 40% of food in the United States is lost or wasted, at a cost of approximately $218 billion.

Nearly a quarter of the country’s food then ends up in landfills, where large amounts of methane are produced. This powerful gas contributes to the overheating of our planet, which causes an increase in the number of extreme weather events associated with crop failures and food insecurity.

The cardboard in the photos is compostable, as are many food scraps. However, since it’s in the trash, it’s safe to assume it wasn’t something that was immediately considered, although the original poster may have saved material for its own show.

Does Dollar Tree do anything to reduce waste?

On its website, the company reaffirms its commitment to protecting the environment and reducing pollution, noting that it is focused on improving operational efficiency and minimizing energy and resource consumption.

As part of these activities, it took part in the pilot program “Bring Your Own Bag”, aimed at encouraging customers to abandon single-use plastic shopping bags. It also lists rules banning the sale of certain chemicals and focuses on sourcing products such as palm oil sustainably.

Regarding food waste, one commenter wondered if there was a technical problem.

“The freezer was probably broken and she had to throw it away in accordance with Sanepid regulations,” one commentator speculated.

Indeed, there are stringent guidelines in place to ensure that our food is safe to eat. When items exceed safe temperatures, eating them can make you sick.

Cool Down couldn’t find any specific policies on donating unused items, although the company’s 2023 Impact Report mentions the importance of food safety and sanitation. Another commenter pointed out that the Helados Mexico minis in the OP photos have been discontinued.

It is unclear whether Dollar Tree employees have the authority to return unrecalled items in the event of technical failures or whether other circumstances exist that would prevent such action from being safely performed.

What can be done about food waste more broadly?

Trader Joe’s and Kroger are among the grocery chains that handed out food during the power outages. Albertson’s also recently partnered with Uber to deliver excess produce to food banks and nonprofit organizations.

Meanwhile, companies like Too Good to Go, OIio and Misfits Market are fighting food waste in the restaurant and agriculture industries by making treats and products available to people at greatly reduced prices, which is good for the planet and our wallets.

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