What A Waste: Capitalism At Its Best

Most of you probably know what capitalism is. You probably also know why it can sometimes rock, and other times suck. Today, kids, we’ll be looking at one of the reasons why it sucks. Have no fear! There are things we can do to make it better.

I work at a gas station. It’s not glamorous;  it pays the bills. We sell food at this gas station and some of the many machines associated with foodstuffs are the roller grills. Heat food up in the microwave, put it on the grill to keep it warm, throw it away after 5 hours; write it off. We throw away so much food. It’s ridiculous.

Curiosity kicked in at some point. I wanted to know how much we were throwing away on my shift. Time for science!

On 30 workdays in the last month and a half, I’ve used the small scale we have to weigh the amount of food we’ve thrown out. These numbers are actually lower than they should be–mostly due to coworkers throwing things out before I got to weigh them. I also tried to do this as many consecutive days as possible, not counting weekends. Again, coworkers thwarted me. I didn’t selectively pick days. ;D

Here’s a tiny version of the chart of my data. It’s not very pretty, but it’s in as many number languages as I could stand:

Click to embiggify.

To make things easy to understand, I’ll be comparing all this random food to 6-ounce steaks. The most we threw away in one night was 19.14 steaks, on July 4. The least we threw away was 1.4 steaks, on June 6. We threw away an average of 6.58 steaks per night. Altogether, I threw away 197.54 steaks’ worth of food (that’s 74 pounds, 1185 ounces, or 33 kilograms).

If I were to pull this food off the grill an hour before it’d go bad, or even a half hour, I could theoretically have time to get it somewhere to be eaten by someone in need. However, that’s not very realistic, nor is it very healthy. It’s also a bit rude, in a way. It might be a tax write-off to donate food that you’d otherwise throw away.

Imagine if all the companies that would normally throw food away or shred up a returned blanket would donate those items to people who needed it. It’s large-scale, and would be difficult to achieve, but it’s fun to dream. 🙂

Now, think about your own habits. How often do you throw something away which could have been recycled in some way? Some ‘trash’ could be used for art. Some of it could be composted (then you can grow a garden and donate the food!). You could start taking your recyclables to a local store with a recycle-dumpster, or make movements in your community to start a curb-side recycling service. Items like dishes, clothes, shoes, dressers, etc that you might normally throw away could instead be donated.

It’s the Humanist thing to do! I recommend against donating to the Salvation Army or any other organization you know to be discriminatory. Check locally for a good secular place to donate food or unwanted belongings, or maybe sacrifice a mocha to donate to a secular charity if you’re able. If we lead by example, others will hopefully follow.

Featured image from this place and roller grill from here

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Lux is a female genderqueer weirdo, writing from Kansas. They happily identify as a militant atheist(+), feminist and liberal. Their time is consumed with Doctor Who, reading, and playing WoW with a cat on their lap. If you're lucky, you might catch them smithing jewellery or cleaning something.


  1. July 26, 2012 at 11:06 am —

    I’ve been eagerly awaiting the results of this research, and I have to say…wow. That’s a LOT of food. The scary thing is that this is only the food on your shift on your days of work.

  2. July 28, 2012 at 3:49 pm —

    Oh my stars, you shouldn’t get me started on recycling cause Xe’nedra is driving me insane with that. They have started a recycling club at school of which she is deputy captain (and she takes this position super seriously). Because of this we recycle most everything.

    We also have a worm farm where all scraps and kitchen waste goes in and it produces top quality fertilizer for the vegetable garden.

    It always saddens me to see food go to waste as there are so many hungry people here in South Africa. I always wish they would pass it along as some stores throw food out that is pretty much perfect. So yes Elly I have to agree with you “What a waste”!

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