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A large white communal fridge surrounded by a wooden fence in Galdakao represents Spain’s first ‘Solidarity fridge’. Both residents and restaurants are free to drop off any leftover or unused food in the fridge that would otherwise be thrown away. The contents of the fridge are free to anyone who stops by. Whilst the left contents might not be exotic, ranging from homecooked leftovers to uneaten sandwiches and unopened milk cartons, there are strict rules in place for anyone leaving food in the fridge, including date labelling and no raw fish, meat or eggs. Volunteers monitor the fridge and throw out anything past its use-by date. So far this hasn’t been an issue as the fridge has been emptied by all sorts of people from those who make special trips from nearby towns to those that happen to feel peckish in passing.
Why the idea?
The idea was prompted by city residents concerns in reaction to the waste generated by supermarkets. Speaking to The Guardian, Organiser, Saiz, explains that the goal isn’t to feed people in need. “This isn’t charity. It’s about making use of food that would otherwise end up in the bin,” he said. “It doesn’t matter who takes it – Julio Iglesias could stop by and take the food – at the end of the day it’s about recovering the value of food products and fighting against waste.”
Local restaurants are particularly happy to have a place to actively alleviate guilt over their food wastage, and even make time in a busy restaurant to regularly drop off any leftovers in the fridge. Álvaro Llonin of Topa restaurant told The Guardian newspaper “Before we used to throw away a lot of food – and it was food that was fine to eat...You know someone is enjoying it,” he said. “It’s like giving our food a second chance to end up in someone’s stomach.”
Murcia, another Spanish city some 400 miles away recently became the second Spanish city to host a solidarity fridge. Saiz has received calls from communities across the country – and from as far as Bolivia – from people interested in setting up similar operations. The scheme already exists in Berlin, Germany.
Waste food is catching legislators attention in the rest of Europe too.