Windell: We need to be more aware of the food waste epidemic

Bridgette Windell

Dumpster diving — a phrase I used to look at and think, “Gross.”

It wasn’t until I watched the movie “Dive” in one of my classes that the phrase started to take on a different connotation. Jeremy Seifert, the filmmaker of “Dive,” documents the amount of food waste disposed of by grocery stores. Seifert and friends dumpster dive for all of their groceries, and feeds his family with the newfound “trash;” however, the food they find in the dumpster is actually fine and they are able to eat better-quality food for much cheaper when found in the trash.


While I still don’t know how I feel about dumpster diving, the film creates an awareness around the food-waste “epidemic” in our country. Before I saw this movie, it never occurred to me that food waste is happening beyond my control — it happens in the agricultural process, then at grocery stores and other businesses and finally the consumer is the end point.

In the United States, the growing population that goes hungry is alarming, but what’s even more alarming is the fact that as a society, we contribute to the problem while also having the ability to solve it.

Within our current food system, half of all food is wasted from the process of agriculture to the kitchens of consumers. According to the film, 96 billion pounds of food is wasted in America annually while reports from National Geographic say the U.S. now wastes 133 billion pounds per year and 30 percent of the food grown is never eaten. It seems immoral that we produce all of this food while so many people are going hungry and we just choose to simply “toss it.”

The film “Dive” focused mainly on the bountiful dumpsters of supermarkets, a large contributor to the food waste crisis. Grocery stores throw out much of their produce before it expires without donating it. France has now become the first country to regulate waste from grocery stores.

According to The Guardian, “French supermarkets will be banned from throwing away or destroying unsold food and must instead donate it to charities or for animal feed, under a law set to crack down on food waste.” This law hopes to improve the divide between too much food in large food corporations and the too little food in the homes of people who cannot afford to eat.

The campaign that proposed the new law hopes the European Union will adopt similar laws across members and I hope the U.S. government is inspired to do the same.  

While it may take the United States government some time to pass a law similar to France’s, as citizens we are able to make an individual impact, and within Fort Collins we have started to become more mindful of our food waste.

Dumpster diving is legal in Fort Collins as long as it is on public property. While some may disagree with this method, many people within Fort Collins have chosen to get their groceries from the dumpsters of food markets. 

Colorado State University has taken an active involvement in minimizing our food waste through the Sustainability sector of Housing and Dining Services. The annual Trash Audit was recently held by Housing and Dining Services, where volunteers sort through a selected number of dumpsters and separate into piles of compost, recycling, etc. This event collects data on how much is thrown away as well as creating awareness around waste we have immediate control over. 

In its last five years of operation, the composting program has “diverted half a million pounds of food wastes from the [CSU] landfill.”


There is no doubt that as a large institution we waste a lot of materials, including food. While there are efforts in place to reduce our food waste such as the Trash Audit or CSU’s Composting Program, we are always able to do more. 

As a student body and as citizens, we need to become more mindful about the waste we control and the waste produced by our society. So much food is produced in America and so much is wasted — money, labor, water, etc. are all wasted when food is tossed. We have the resources — let’s not waste them. We have the ability to do good, solve problems and give to those who are in need. There is no doubt in my mind that we can collectively organize and make efforts, like France, to solve hunger and reduce our overall environmental footprint.

(For more information on the food waste issue and how you can individually waste less, read the March issue of National Geographic.) 

Collegian Columnist Bridgette Windell can be reached at or on Twitter @Bridgette_Rae.