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Just Eat It highlights systemic food waste

Waste Reduction Week runs until Oct. 23



What's it like to eat garbage for half a year?

"I was really intimidated at first, and I was also really worried about what my friends and family would think, because there's this stigma about eating things that other people want to throw away," said filmmaker Jen Rustemeyer.

"But once we started finding the food I was really on board."

Technically, Rustemeyer and her partner Grant Baldwin weren't eating garbage for the six months they were filming their documentary Just Eat It — just food that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

They scoured retailers, grocery stores and wholesalers, and were amazed at the quality of food they found.

"People really have to see it with their own eyes to really understand what's going on, and we hope with the film that we're going to be able to spark a conversation about food waste and what we can do in our communities to combat it," Rustemeyer said.

"We were saving hundreds and hundreds of dollars. We brought in about $20,000 worth of food in six months... we were sharing it with neighbours and friends, and we got an amazing variety — everything you can imagine, from maple syrup to rice to fish."

Just Eat It is screening at the Squamish Lil'wat Cultural Centre on Thursday, Oct. 20 as part of Waste Reduction Week.

Doors are at 6:30 and the screening starts at 7 p.m. A Skype Q&A with director Baldwin will follow.

The goal of Waste Reduction Week — taking place from Oct. 17 to 23 this year — is to get people talking about ways to reduce waste, said Claire Ruddy, executive director of AWARE.

"Obviously the biggest thing you could do when we're talking about waste is reduce first, but then making sure that we're diverting food scraps, getting those into the organics bin, and then making sure that everything else is being sorted into the right bins," Ruddy said.

"It helps to stay away from problem products — things that aren't biodegradable, like mixed material stuff... when you're buying, thinking about what things are packaged in can really help you reduce your waste."

AWARE is also running a photo challenge for Waste Reduction Week, encouraging residents and businesses to share photos of their waste reduction with the hashtag #LoveThisPlaceReduceYourWaste.

"Last year we sent over 14,000 tonnes of waste to landfills," Ruddy said. "So we've still got a lot of space to improve."

A proposed bylaw that would ban recyclables and compostable items from restaurants' and condo's garbage bins is still in the works, but has proved to be more complex and comprehensive than first conceived.

"We've been out talking to commercial properties and multi-family strata properties and strata management companies, and there was a lot of feedback around gaps, further information that was needed," Ruddy said, explaining that there was a lot of variability in the types of garbage storage rooms the properties have, which made things difficult for bylaw implementation.

"So we went back to the municipality and we were talking with the building and planning department, and they're actually working now on providing more information on what properties can and can't do with their exterior garbage spaces," she said.

"If you're looking to implement this bylaw, and that's going to need a change in your physical infrastructure, what are your options for that?

"So that kind of became the main focus — making sure that that could happen prior to moving forward on too much else, because obviously if people physically don't have the space for the garbage then that's a bit of a challenge."

The bylaw will come back to council in 2017.

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