Freeganism: A Portuguese Experiment

Wasted Waste

Directed by Pedro Sera (2018)

Film Review

This documentary is mainly about Freeganism, a Portuguese movement in which members opt out of the money system by spending their time growing or “recycling” food and other basic necessities, “occupying” homes instead of renting, and foregoing most consumer goods to avoid engaging in paid work.

The movement is a reaction against rampant consumerism, which Freegans reject. They view consumerism as an addition that’s destroying the planet.

The film’s main focus is western society’s incredible wasteful food system, in which one-third of the food produced is wasted. If this discarded food could be distributed somehow to needy families, global hunger could be eliminated.

In Europe 198 hectares of land (an area the size of Mexico) goes to produce food that’s never consumed. Up to 50% of food never leaves the farm because it fails to meet arbitrary supermarket appearance standards. The rest is discarded due to overcautious “sell by” dates ( enabling Freegans to scavenge it from supermarket dumpsters).

“Food travel,” whereby corporate food networks transport food halfway around the world, is also incredibly wasteful. It’s estimated to produce 750 times the carbon emissions as locally produced food.

In addition to examining various Freegan projects that prepare “recycled” food to distribute free on the streets, the documentary looks at other Portuguese cooperatives, social enterprises and charities that reduce food waste in other ways.

One coop collects “ugly” food directly from farmers to sell to its members. As Food and Good After are social enterprises that purchase (at a discount) expired supermarket food and sells them at cost in their own facilities. There’s also a bulk foods store which eliminates plastic packaging by requiring patrons to bring their own containers.

They also interview a Zero Waste advocate who has produced zero trash in four years; the coordinator of Portugal’s Time Bank Network (where members trade services instead of purchasing them); and a Portuguese legislator with a bill (similar to existing laws in France and Italy) requiring all outlets larger than 400m2 to provide for the allocation of food wastes to charities and social enterprises for distribution to the needy.




How to Tell Where Your Food Comes from


Consumers in North America and Europe are consciously opting for nationally – or better still locally – grown foods as a way of reducing fossil fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions. Increasing concern over “food miles” (i.e. the distance their food travels before reaching their table) has led the US Congress to enact country of origin labeling (COOL) on fresh beef, pork, lamb, fresh fruits, nuts and vegetables. The right of the US government to require COOL was recently upheld by the World Trade Organization, in response to a complaint by Canada and Mexico. The WTO ruling is confusing, as the secret tribunal that decides such matters also ruled the COOL labeling requirements the US was requiring were excessively burdensome. See WTO Dispute Settlement.

Although COOL labeling is not required on frozen, canned or processed foods, the country responsible for manufacturing an item is indicated by the first three digits of the bar code. The latter is used universally in automated checkout systems.

Deciphering the bar code:

  • 00-13 USA & Canada
  • 30-37 France
  • 40-44 Germany
  • 49 Japan
  • 50 UK
  • 57 Denmark
  • 64-Finland
  • 76 Switzerland and Liechtenstein
  • 93 Australia
  • 94 New Zealand
  • 480–489 Philippines
  • 628 Saudi-Arabia
  • 629 United Arab Emirates
  • 690-695 China (including Hong Kong)
  • 740-745 Central America
  • 750 Mexico
  • 885 Thailand
  • 893 Vietnam

Consumers need to be aware that China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Vietnam have no food inspection regulations. Thus there is no guarantee food manufactured in these countries is safe.

For more country codes go to EAN codes

photo credit: jDevaun via photopin cc