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Unsold food on the menu

Posted on 01 November 2016.

They’re in Paris, Bristol and London. These "freegan" restaurants offer an alternative way of eating: they cook with food recovered before it becomes waste.

Every French person throws an average of 20 to 30 kg of food away per year – that’s 12 to 20 billion euros straight in the trash!

Near Porte de la Villette in Paris, food is cooked from Friday to Monday evening. But differently. In a 1,000 m2 building, nestled between the concrete and the Paris ring road, the Freegan Pony puts unsold fruit and veg from the Rungis wholesale market onto people’s plates. Like many other Parisian restaurants, the day begins at dawn for this anti-waste restaurant as they take a trip to the largest food market in Europe. But the goal is not to buy but to collect the fruit and vegetables that are not fit for sale. An average of 150 kg per day of food that would otherwise go straight to the dumpster!

Less food and less waste

Every year in France alone, 1.2 million tonnes of food ends up in the trash. That’s at least 20 kg of food thrown away per person per year – and includes 7 kg that is still in its packaging, according to ADEME. To fight this waste and the pollution it generates, the freegan movement (a contraction of free and vegan) was born in the US. Its credo: to end binge buying, food galore, too short life cycles and too long transport.

Beginning in the 2000s, this alternative movement based on recovery, mutual assistance, short circuits and exchanging expertise came out of the kitchens with permaculture and upcycling, which spread in France in “ressourceries” - alternative resource and recycling centres.

“God save the bin”

Today, the idea of restaurants that source their ingredients from the garbage has spread all over Europe. Cousin to the Freegan Pony in Paris, is Skipchen in Bristol (England) which gets its supplies from supermarket waste. In the northeast of London, Hackney, where the "pay what you feel" principle applies, the Save the Date Cafe prepares meals from unsold items in restaurants and nearby stores.

With a few euros and a little imagination in the kitchen, these waste restaurants have a loyal following. Every evening when the Freegan Pony opens, Parisians attracted by the concept crowd around tables – that have also been given a second life.