Taste the Waste

Valentin Thurn’s work on Taste the Waste changed his life, now let it change yours.

With the surge documentaries are making at both the box office and on critical lists over recent years, the ripple they can make is tangible. When it comes to these films it’s probably safe to say that garbage-based features aren’t exactly the most popular. Yet, unlike films like Exit Through the Gift Shop or Inside Job, garbage is good because, unlike publicizing the origins of global financial disasters or searching for a famed artist, we, as ordinary, consuming citizens, can make an actual, demonstrative change when it comes to waste and how you throw it away. Seven films playing at Reel Waste penetrate the world of garbage and will undoubtedly leave the audience with a clearer vision of their direct impact.

SEE had a chance to discuss waste and waste-not with Valentin Thurn, the director of Taste the Waste, a documentary about the worldwide destruction of food.

SEE: How did you get started with Taste the Waste?

Thurn: “Three years ago I did a small report about dumpster diving in Germany and, when starting the project, I thought it was a rather exotic topic. I knew it was interesting but really didn’t grasp the dimension of it. When they opened the supermarket bins and I saw all of this perfectly edible food — all in plastic, sometimes before the best before date — I just wanted to understand that. I was really shocked about the global dimensions of what I saw.”


SEE: There are rather simple aspects to the film, but it stretches wider as well. When you got involved did you have any idea it could be such a deep topic?

Thurn: “I grew up with the environmental movement, so I was kind of aware of what we do to the environment with our consumerist style. I’m certainly not rigorous in my ways, but if you look at eating and waste, this is a topic where people can make a difference. Especially in the field of nutrition.”


SEE: What is the thesis of Taste of Waste?

Thurn: “In our industrial society, we’ve lost the appreciation of food dramatically. It’s getting cheaper and cheaper — we just eat because it’s necessary to survive, but we only really seem to have an appreciation when we go to a restaurant. When we’re at work we want something that is quick. I think we need to understand that food gives us back something — it gives us back quality of life. When we see the value to choose quality, then we don’t throw out the amount we do now. There is also a big connection to world hunger. When you’re a child, parents say ‘eat your dishes, if they had it, children in Africa would be happy,’ yet we laugh about it….how can we send leftovers to Africa? Twenty or 40 years ago we didn’t seem to think there was a strict link, but now there is.


SEE: Do you find the audience is more inspired after seeing the movie, or is it depressed feeling?

Thurn: “I was quite sure that I didn’t want to show one-a-half hours of mountains of garbage; nobody wants to see that kind of doom and gloom that leaves them behind to feel helpless. People want solutions and need things that don’t make them feel helpless. This is really a topic where every one can do something. I think that is why it is so powerful … there are a lot of strong emotional reactions. Sometimes the topic is very abstract topic — like climate change or world hunger — but with food, there’s a direct link to their own kitchen. This is why people are interested.”


SEE: What things have you changed in your life since you put out Taste The Waste?

Thurn: “It changed not only life, but everyone who worked on the film. Personally, I changed a lot in my kitchen. It started from some vegetables I don’t preserve in the fridge anymore because now I know that it’s not good. I know this is a very simple thing but it helps you when you are planning and buying things. Probably a lot of people go out once a week and grocery shop, pack their car and enough of that trip, but now I try to reduce those large trips and buy things two or three times a week. It helps me plan better and lets me know what I really need.”




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