This is just a temporary Smooth Over, but it can be the catalyst for radical change!
The Skipped Smoothover is a project which my friends Cat, Rachel and I dreamt up after a late night dive into a supermarket skip in Wales, where Cat and Rach work at the Centre for Alternative Technology. Cat made a great melon and banana smoothy for our breakfast, and we really wanted to share the goodness of the fruit with as many people as possible. We realised that sharing smoothies with people could be a fantastic way of communicating about the waste issues involved in the methods of food distribution which most of us rely upon – particularly in the city where there is a very small percentage of the food we eat is produced locally. We decided to bring our smoothies to the Climate Camp, as I knew a wholesale distribution market in the north east of London, who had been very willing to provide their ’waste’ fruit for community projects in the past.
We arrived at Blackheath on Saturday with a huge load of fruit, which the whole sellers had fork-lifted into our van for us. We set to cutting apples bananas, mangoes and kiwis and mashing them with potato mashers and squashing them with our hands.. Loads of people got involved, bonding in the squishy gooey production line! We collaborated with Bicycology to build a mechanised smoothie maker which you can see people having fun pedalling on a wee video clip here.
We plan to keep squishing until all the fruit is gone.
This project is all fruity, but it is possible to collect many foods from skips. The skipping culture has brought up interesting moral questions for vegetarians and vegans alike- some choose to eat dairy and meat products which have been thrown away. As a vegetarian, I have eaten some fish and chicken from skips, as I feel disgusted that animals are being reared to be thrown in our bins! It seems more respectful to me, to eat the animal than to put it to landfill.
It was heartbreaking for us to see how much food is thrown away just in one morning at the whole seller’s market. This waste of perfectly edible ripe and juicy fruit is the result of overbuying and food standards which stop even slightly wonky produce from being consumed. We are provided excessive choice as consumers. Only the biggest, shiniest, most symmetrical fruit and veg make it to the shelves – leaving vast amounts of ’less perfect’ produce to be thrown away daily, because retailers simply won’t purchase it. The current production cycle of agricultural processing is intensive, exhaustive and exploitative. In the UK the food distribution industry accounts for 14% of energy consumption by UK businesses and 7 million tonnes of CO2 per year. The UK food industry’s methods are an example of how accepted waste is in the global North.
There are absolute limits to how much waste pollution the earth can absorb, and how much natural resources can be provided. Food reclamation projects like the Skip Smoothover can reduce the amount of valuable food sent to landfill, but we really need to change the system. By altering our buying patterns, we can have encourage more sustainable methods of distribution. It’s time to take responsibility! Take what you can from skips, and buy local, seasonal vegetables, so that less produce grown on the other side of the world ends up in our bins!