The Produce Project: Day 1–Packaged Waste

My first day of work in a supermarket produce department began at 8 a.m. Ten minutes into it, I was throwing away food.

They’d get to the orientation later, I was told, we had to “cull” all of the ”out-of-code” products. They got me an apron and pointed me to the wall-length cold case of packaged produce. Basically, I had to pull all packages with a sell-by date of that day. I’ve written before about the difference between sell-by dates and use-by dates. Items are often good up to a week past the former, but here I was yanking packages from the shelf at 8:10 on the morning of their sell-by date.

I culled cut mushrooms, stir fry mix (cut peppers and onions), veggie trays with dip (crudités), watermelon chunks, pineapple chunks, a mix of pineapple, watermelon and cantaloupe and more. Based on their container weights, I tossed 24 pounds of fresh cut, Del Monte fruit that first morning. In addition, a few of the veggie trays had an “enjoy-by” date of four days from that day, but it’s sell-by date meant they must be pulled!

Not surprisingly, most of the stuff that I culled was pre-cut and pre-washed. When items are cut up, they oxidize and go bad quicker than if they were whole. Now, they don’t go bad as quickly as their sell-by dates indicate; none of the packages I took off the shelves were things I wouldn’t eat. But that phenomenon of faster-aging items produce is behind the cautious sell-by dates. In this case, convenience causes waste.

While I worked on the pre-cut and wrapped produce, a co-worker culled the loose stuff. When he was finished, his tray looked like a restaurant buffet. We both finished at about the same time and headed back to the produce room, where my boss was washing some lettuce. I asked him what I should do with my cart full of culled product.

“It all just goes in the dumpster,” he said. 

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2 Comments

  1. phyllis
    Posted December 19, 2009 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

    I always appreciate it when a store has a set of shelves, usually placed in an inconspicuous location, especially used for things that are no longer fresh but still edible. They are usually sold at drastically reduced prices. Not quite freeganism, but almost.

  2. Posted December 31, 2012 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    Hi there colleagues, pleasant paragraph and good arguments commented here, I am in fact enjoying by these.

4 Trackbacks

  1. [...] As I mentioned last time, I began my first day of work by throwing out about 50 pounds of produce. My first task was culling all of the packaged produce with a sell-by date that fell on that day, despite it being 8 a.m.  [...]

  2. [...] I recently worked at a supermarket produce department for three months, an endeavor I’ve dubbed The Produce Project. On the first day of work, I got right into the action by tossing more than 50 pounds of ”sell-by” date casualties and watching some computer training videos. [...]

  3. [...] I recently worked at a supermarket produce department for three months, an endeavor I’ve dubbed The Produce Project. On the first day of work, I got right into the action by tossing more than 50 pounds of ”sell-by” date casualties and watching some computer training videos.Because the second day began in the afternoon, I missed the morning cull. Instead, I spent most of my time stocking the produce section for night shoppers. Because store remains open until 11 p.m., you try to have everything mostly full when the last employee leaves at 7 or 8. [...]

  4. [...] I recently worked at a supermarket produce department for three months, an endeavor I’ve dubbed The Produce Project. On the first day of work, I got right into the action by tossing more than 50 pounds of ”sell-by” date casualties and watching some computer training videos. [...]

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