by Ed Sum
Victoria Film Festival
Taste the Waste is a very informative look at the amount of food that gets thrown away on a daily basis. From the farmland to the grocery store, even the middlemen gives their point of view of why this act happens, but only a few other individuals offer suggestions about change.
Quite simply, the “industry” in the European Union is concerned with definitions: commercial grade means it must pass defined standards before it can be passed on to the consumer. But is that true? Many individuals from the union, especially in France and Germany, give their reasons on why this is so. But there is a new movement underfoot. After a very lengthy discourse that reveals where the food gets thrown away, this film encourages sustainable living. That’s a very positive message to make in a world that is fattened by consumerism.
Instead of going to a big chain store, this film explores other options, like hitting the farmer’s market. There’s more variety in shapes and sizes of a single vegetable, like a curvy cucumber over a straight one. Some management heads think the latter are easier to package, and any mutants should be tossed. Even tomatoes and breads are considered. Sometimes there is a taste difference, but that depends on how the food was grown over how it was baked.
Sadly, the look at the waste produced in restaurants is not fully explored. Other details, like in what constitutes an expiry date, are. Almost expired products tend to be thrown out faster in favour for new stock coming in. Some tossed out food is rescued and given to people in need. At least some countries demonstrate that they can recycle and compost the food so that it is safely going back to the environment, like the initiatives that are happening in Japan. But the look in what heavily industrialized countries do to reduce wastage is a frightening comparison.
What this film does is to educate, and the information comes fast. The way this documentary treats the topic is like a plant; it takes time to blossom. The opening sequence of dumpster divers feels tacked on even though it exists to serve a point. One example is in some of the food that are found in dumpsters. They are still edible, especially the prepackaged stuff. Just because a product has a blemish, or the plastic has a minor rip, does not mean the item is bad.
But to process everything this documentary is a challenge, and while it may be revealing for foreign individuals who speak the language, English audiences need the extra time to process the information. If the close caption and inter-titles only persisted on screen for a few seconds longer, some viewers can absorb the message being sent out. Or, it can be viewed again as it plays in future festivals.
But almost left out is what goes on in North America—some more information would have been appreciated. At least the film takes a healthy look at individuals encouraging homegrown and community gardens on rooftop buildings in major city centers. And with New York as its focus, this movie looks at a city that needs it the most.
More information about various initiiatives can be found at Taste the Waste's official website