The world has a huge problem with food waste, and the Netherlands – including Haarlem – are no exception. The Dutch Review estimates that 35% of all food purchased in the Netherlands is wasted, which puts a huge strain on a country already tightly constricted by its relative lack of resources and territory when it comes to managing waste.
Initiatives like urban gardens and recycling have helped to produce some change, but much more needs to be done. One international movement that has sought to turn trash into treasure is freeganism, yet, they have faced legal and societal challenges. What can they expect in Haarlem?
Dumpster diving and law
A core part of the freegan lifestyle involves dumpster diving. That’s as simple as it sounds – searching through bins and trash to find perfectly fine food that was otherwise going to go to waste. More often than not, dumpster diving takes place in the garbage lots attached to major businesses. Supermarkets in particular are notorious for throwing out food that would otherwise be fit for consumption, whether due to business practices or from over-adherence to shelf life guidelines. Dumpster diving varies in legality from country to country, and it often falls on whether or not trespassing has occurred to define if it’s a crime. In the Netherlands, dumpster diving is not in itself illegal, and Dumpsterdam have long helped freegans to find high-quality spots around the country. Beware, however, of trespassing laws, and entering anything which is locked.
Starting from home
Another key part of the freegan lifestyle concerns making the most out of waste. Recycling everything possible into new food sources is key, and is something that cannot be ignored in meeting a zero-waste lifestyle. This is an area where the Netherlands excels. As The National highlights, the Netherlands has long been a proponent of sophisticated farming methods. Micro-farms have appeared across Haarlem and the wider country, and these rely on the redeployment of waste to be effective. This ticks a big box in the freegan lifestyle.
Freegans often embrace squatting as part of their lifestyle. Freeganism, at its core, is an anti-capitalist movement – it suggests that individuals need to purchase nothing at all, and that the world can only move forward from a complete cessation of consumption. Squatting is illegal in The Netherlands, and police are empowered to move individuals on in egregious cases. However, the Netherlands is also unique in its application of the antikraak law. Antikraak effectively means ‘anti-squatting’, and is when property owners offer incentivized rent rates, or entirely subsidized living, in exchange for ensuring their property is occupied. This raises its value and protects it against damage. While only half-in when it comes to freegan ideology, it is nevertheless a step further than what can be expected in many countries.
The Netherlands, and Haarlem, is therefore somewhat of a welcoming place for freegans. Dumpster diving is legal; the principle of growing your own food and recycling waste, is inherent in many Dutch homes. With antikraak, there’s a real movement away from wasting shelter.
That said, more could be done, but if any society might achieve it, it’s the Netherlands.