Last week I wrote about how large quantities of bread sometimes go to waste at the food bank that I volunteer at, primarily because there is sometimes a massive oversupply of the product. This seems to happen seemingly without an adverse impact on the organization that is responsible for this oversupply of product, and in spite of the wastage it causes. Supply and demand seem to be completely independent factors in this kind of a situation in this economic model.
By pure coincidence, I recently got an e-mail from an online organization that does campaigns for social causes that addressed wastage of food all over the world. This was one of the articles that was linked in the e-mail. I am glad that I am not alone in thinking that there is a problem.
One of the things that you notice when you are sorting out products in the food bank is the presence of the expiry dates on the packaging. If I am not wrong, every packaged product for human consumption in the US has an expiry date. The issue is that the passage of the expiry date does not necessarily mean that the product has gone bad. Also, in spite of the fact that different types of product are subject to different manners of expiry, this “expiry date” concept seems to be applied and used in a uniform mindless manner in commerce. Stores remove products on or before their expiry dates from the shelves even if they are good. I expect that there are legal reasons for doing this, but sometimes removal of product before the expiry date might be done of the reason of managing appearances. I also suspect that expiry dates are generated in a conservative manner, i.e., the dates that are used are themselves well ahead of the dates when the product is expected to go bad. You try to be more flexible in terms of managing this aspect of handling products in a place like a food bank (as opposed to a store), but at the end of the day, there definitely are legal constraints to be followed everywhere.
In order to exist as a society we have to set up an bunch of rules that people agree to follow (or are forced to follow) for the betterment of the larger population. Unfortunately, the use of rules has to involve the setting up of absolutes, and thresholds for certain types of behaviors and expectations, when in fact there is often a continuum, and some ambiguity, in what constitutes reasonable logical behavior and expectation. I call this phenomenon digital behavior in an analog world. I recently wrote something on this topic. I will perhaps add an entry to my blog on this subject.