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Photo of dumpster filled with frozen food items outside grocery store sparks upset: 'So demoralizing and heartbreaking'

"The worst part of diving."

"The worst part of diving."

Photo Credit: iStock

It's not uncommon for dumpster divers to find shocking amounts of perfectly good products destined for landfills. Now, a Redditor is drawing attention to a considerable amount of food waste they discovered in the bin of a local Dollar Tree. 

What happened?

The Redditor posted two photos revealing a dumpster filled with boxes of food.

"The worst part of diving."
Photo Credit: Reddit
"The worst part of diving."
Photo Credit: Reddit

"The worst part of diving," they wrote in the subreddit r/DumpsterDiving. "There's ice cream, fries, pizza, God knows what else. As far as I can tell, it's frozens all the way down. Everything was warm. So demoralizing and heartbreaking to see so much food go to waste!!"

"So sad," one commenter agreed.  

Why is this concerning?

Growing and packaging the food requires resources and energy, and when food goes unused, a lot of money goes down the drain. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, as much as 40% of food in the United States is lost or wasted, costing around $218 billion.

Nearly one-quarter of food in the country then ends up in landfills, where it generates large amounts of methane. This potent gas contributes to the overheating of our planet, which has caused an increase in extreme weather events linked to failed crops and food insecurity.

The cardboard seen in the images is compostable, like many food scraps. However, since it is sitting in the dumpster, it's fair to assume that wasn't an immediate consideration, though the original poster could rescue the material for their own program.

Is Dollar Tree doing anything to limit waste? 

On its website, the company affirms its commitment to the environment and pollution reduction, noting that it is focused on improving operational efficiency and minimizing its consumption of energy and resources. 

As part of these efforts, it participated in a "Bring Your Own Bag" pilot program to encourage its customers to ditch single-use plastic shopping bags. It also lists policies that ban the sale of certain chemicals and focuses on sourcing products like palm oil sustainability. 

As far as the food waste, one commenter wondered whether there was a technical issue. 

"Probably had a freezer breakdown and had to throw it out according to health department regulations," one commenter speculated

Indeed, there are strict guidelines to ensure our food is safe to eat. When items surpass safe temperatures, they can make us sick if eaten. 

The Cool Down couldn't find any specific policies about donating unused items, though the company's 2023 impact report does list the importance of food safety and sanitation. Another commenter pointed out that the Helados Mexico minis in the OP's photos had been recalled

It's unclear if Dollar Tree employees are empowered to give away non-recalled items in the event of technical breakdowns or if there were other circumstances that would have prevented that course of action from safely occurring.

What can be done about food waste more broadly?

Trader Joe's and Kroger are among the grocery chains that have given away food during electrical outages. Albertson's also recently partnered with Uber to get excess items to food banks and nonprofit organizations. 

Meanwhile, companies like Too Good to Go, OIio, and Misfits Market combat food waste from the restaurant industry and agriculture sector by connecting people with goodies and produce at heavily discounted rates, proving to be a win for the planet and our wallets. 

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