'Taste the Waste'

Noting that food thrown away in Europe and North America alone could feed the world's hungry three times over, "Taste the Waste" offers a globe-trotting survey of conspicuous consumption's downside and some bright ideas on how so-called garbage can be repurposed to benefit all. This lively, upbeat advocacy docu is a good bet for environmental-interest slots in all formats.

Noting that food thrown away in Europe and North America alone could feed the world’s hungry three times over, “Taste the Waste” offers a globe-trotting survey of conspicuous consumption’s downside and some bright ideas on how so-called garbage can be repurposed to benefit all. This lively, upbeat advocacy docu is a good bet for environmental-interest slots in all formats.

Ever-escalating customer finickiness and governmental regulation have had positive effects, while also leading to expiration dates that require food be tossed even when it’s still perfectly safe. Produce deemed the wrong shape, color or size never makes it to market. Packaging is high-grade. The need for attractive displays forces some bakeries to keep shelves fully stocked till closing — with the majority of unsold items then simply trashed. Many imported items travel so far from growing fields that a large percentage is expected to be overripe and worthless on arrival.

At best, all this waste gets turned into compost or animal feed (though the latter’s own regulations also can prevent recycling); at worst, it goes to a landfill, creating ozone-depleting methane. (Reducing food disposal by half would help climate change as much as taking half the world’s cars off the road, the pic maintains.)

Among those individuals and institutions glimpsed bucking the trend are two young German dumpster-divers who dine exclusively — and very well — on still-edible foodstuffs thrown out by supermarkets; a French food bank that similarly cherry-picks the best of discarded commercial food and passes it on to the needy; and a Slow Food convention in Italy that feeds 1,000 patrons a delicious meal created entirely from remnant ingredients. Elsewhere, we see good nutritional values instilled early by a Berlin children’s cooking class, and urban self-sufficiency in the form of rooftop gardens and beekeeping.

Sprawling from Japan to Cameroon to Manhattan, this briskly paced, colorful feature underlines its power-to-the-people tilt by eschewing narration in favor of interviewees’ voices. Packaging is high-grade.

Taste the Waste

Docu - Germany

Production

A Schnittstelle Film Kohn and Thurn Film production in association with WDR, NDR, Buddhist Broadcasting Foundation Netherlands, Kocca, Creo Contends, EED Church Development Service/Ezef. (International sales: Telepool, Munich.) Produced by Astrid Vandekerkhove, Valentin Thurn. Directed, written by Valentin Turn.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), Roland Breitschuh; editor, Birgit Koster; music, Pluramon; sound, Falk Moller; sound designer, Peter Aufderhaar. Reviewed at Montreal World Film Festival (Focus on World Documentary), Aug. 22, 2011. (Also in Berlin Film Festival.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Friedrich Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf, Veronique Abouna Ndong, Timothy Jones, Felicitas Schneider, Thomas Pocher, Robert, Gerhard, Carlo Petrini, Andrea Segre. (German, French, Japanese, English dialogue)

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