Monday, January 17, 2011

When Rules Seem Immoral

I'm a criminal. Or at least, from the way I was treated today, you'd assume I must have done something terrible, unlawful. What really happened?

Today I was foraging near my usual local grocery store. While walking around, I decided to check around the side of the building, to see if there was anything there. My husband works for a company subcontracted by the store and often works in the area, and I go to that grocery store often enough that they know me well. I definitely didn't expect any problems.
While I was near the side of the building, I saw the store dumpster. It was filled with lots of fruits and vegetables. All that waste made me so sad. Food that could feed so many people instead just getting thrown in to a landfill where it will sit and not decompose for tens of years. (Even decomposable things don't decompose quickly in landfills because of the bad conditions there.)

I saw boxes and boxes of food near the dumpster filled with all sorts of goodies. Bananas. Oranges. Peppers. Zucchini. Cauliflower. Onions. Not perfect produce, but better quality even than the stuff being sold on the reduced rack in the store! Just as I was eying all that produce, some workers came out of the store.
"What's going to happen to all that food?" I asked, not believing that it would actually be wasted.
"It's going in the garbage."
"Why?" I asked, incredulously. "If you're not selling it, I'd gladly take it."
"Sorry, you're not allowed to do that. Go speak to a manager if you want permission."
"Ok, I'd love to do that."

The worker disappeared inside the store. Not two minutes later he exits the store with 2 red faced managers. "What are you doing back here?" he yelled at me. "You have no right to be back here! Just because you want something doesn't give you a right to take it! It doesn't belong to you! Taking something without permission is stealing!"
"I didn't take anything," I insisted. "I only asked if I could. Its getting thrown out anyhow. What difference does it make to you whether I take it or if it goes into the dump?"
But no, the manager didn't relent. Just screamed and screamed at me, basically telling me I was in a place I was forbidden to be (Really? Then why was there no sign marking "Workers only" or anything of the sort?) and implying that I was a rotten no-goodnik thief.

Today left such a bad taste in my mouth.
Maybe company policy is that produce like that needs to get trashed. But WHY? Why is it moral for perfectly good food to go in the trash when others are suffering because of lack of food? Why is it moral for them to stop someone from trying to salvage something from the trash? Why do companies make policies like that in the first place?

As I mentioned, my husband works for a company subcontracted by that store. Previously, he worked for the store itself at its deli counter. All the cheeses came in nice, large, food grade plastic containers. He used to bring some home.
Now I've needed to purchase large food grade containers to store my bulk bought food. I've tried to go back to the store and get some of those cheese containers. When I ask for them, I'm told "No, you can't have them. They get sent back to the factory." Utter lies. My husband worked there. The empty containers went straight into the trash. I know the truth.
I've spoken to the manager of the store. I told him that I know the containers aren't returned to the company, that they just go into the trash. And that I have been looking for similar containers for nearly a year but haven't been able to find them anywhere, and I'm willing to buy the empty containers from the store- I just desperately need that type of container. But no, the manager told me that they're not allowed to give it to me or sell it to me. Company policy is that it goes in the trash.

This happens place after place after place.
"Company policy is that things go into the trash."

In my opinion, it seems immoral that preventing things from entering landfills is forbidden. Taking items and making sure that they actually get use instead of joining a pile of garbage is "breaking rules" and in some places, even illegal.
I get so infuriated by things like this. Infuriated that I get treated like a common criminal when I want to do green things. When I want to do things that help the environment and eliminate waste, its "breaking rules" and illegal or whatever.
I know in certain places dumpster diving is illegal. Asinine!

Why are there rules like this? Why are they allowed to be made? Why are things so backward like this when wasting is rewarded and preventing waste is forbidden???

If you were me, how would you react? Would you sneak and take things from the trash if its "forbidden"? Or would you ignore all the waste? Would you put up a stink, or would you accept the rules? Would you smuggle out contraband from the trash bins?
What asinine and seemingly immoral rules are there like this where you live? Do you know what the reasons are for these rules?


  1. Would you be able to go "over the heads" of the managers and speak to the owners of the store?

  2. They throw away lots of good produce at a store nearby. They won't even mark it down and sell it. I asked if they were allowed to give it away and they said no. They fence off any access to the back of the store where I presume the dumpster is. I agree, it is such a waste and is sad. They are wrong and should be ashamed. I wish I knew the right answer but I don't.

  3. I worked in a movie theater and every night, we had to toss whatever food we didn't sell. Just the popcorn alone was enough to fill several trash bags. And one night, we made too many hot dogs and tossed 20 perfectly good weiners in their buns in the trash. It didn't sit right with me and a lot of the other employees so we asked managers if we could take them home. Got a solid NO. Company policy because apparently, they were worried that if leftover food was allowed to be taken home at the end of the day, employees would make more food that necessary or "trash" some on purpose. Basically they didn't trust us not to abuse the system and would rather dump the food.


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