Trader JoesLots of people adore funky grocer Trader Joe's. Its vegan pad thai is apparently so delicious that it sparked a smackdown between two women in the frozen-food aisle of a Manhattan location in January. However, the activists at want to pick a much bigger fight with Trader Joe's: They're accusing the chain of wasting food.

Their campaign got a kick-start from documentary filmmaker Jeremy Seifert, who recorded Trader Joe's employees trashing huge bins full of salvageable food in his film Dive! Seifert is a self-professed "Dumpster diver," and he feeds his family with the perfectly good food retailers routinely throw in the garbage.

Whatever happened to "waste not, want not"?

Overflowing Garbage Cans, Empty Bellies

In its petition to get Trader Joe's to alter its policies, reports that Americans throw away 96 billion pounds of food every year, or 263 million pounds a day. Break it down even further, and you've got 11 million pounds of food trashed every hour, or a ton and a half each second.

In a purely economic sense, waste is inefficient, and therefore bad for business. On a more emotional level, dumping food that could feed the hungry is downright sad, and certainly bad for humanity. Surely the best businesses can do much better than this.

Some companies do handle surplus food better than others. For example, Panera's (PNRA) Day-End Dough-Nation program distributes unsold bakery products to local food banks and charities daily.

Leading By Example

Trader Joe's isn't the only company acting in wasteful and unsustainable ways. Seifert's campaign starts with the privately held grocer, but will move on to bigger chains with worse practices later.

However, this isn't the first time sustainability issues have overshadowed Trader Joe's. Greenpeace targeted "Traitor Joe's" for what it considered shoddy sustainable seafood standards, prompting a pledge from the grocer to amend its fishy ways.

Clearly, campaigns like Seifert's can work. And with more consumers paying increasing attention to sustainable business practices, more companies will realize that shoppers want to feel good about the stores they frequent.

Motley Fool analyst Alyce Lomax does not own shares of Panera.

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Rich Rathnow see....George of the richest men in the world who made his money from hedging on the fall of the british pound in the 70s. Supporter of all things related to redistribution of wealth from the west through extortive measures all in the name of unsubstantiated climate change. BILLIONS of dollars wasted on FAILED alternative energy source development to cronies of the president. And these people are worried about a company wasting its OWN expired food products. TYPICAL progressive hypocrisy.

February 08 2014 at 10:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kenny Sterrett

This article is probably looking at one store, and their possible one off event, and crucifying an entire business. I work for Trader Joe's and we donate all of our bread, meats, and other perishables to local charities. The truth of the matter is that waste is good in retail. If there were never any spoils, nobody would want to buy the product. It's all about rotation. Excessive waste=bad, however, if' you don't have any retail understanding you'd never be aware that some waste is necessary for increasing sales.

October 11 2011 at 10:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Activists are not always on the right side of an issue. This one looks at a situation and does not see the complications involved with running a business when food products are concerned. But a holier than thou is a common thread when activists are involved.

July 12 2011 at 11:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I live in Raleigh, NC, where our local Trader Joe's donates regularly to The Interfaith Food Shuttle. Interfaith then distributes it to those in need. I live in public housing (RHA) of about 300 people. All of us benefit from Trader Joe's and many others generosity. Thanks TJ

July 12 2011 at 8:41 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Twice a week a Trader Joe's in Manhattan donates food to the Missionaries of Charity which then distributes it to the homeless and poor. This has been going on for many years. I've had the good fortune to witness this first hand and be blessed by many of those who receive the food from Trader Joe's.

July 11 2011 at 9:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

The problem with giving near expired food away is people bring it back stating they didn't notice it was expired and they get their money back or exchange for new product. It's sad that people are dishonest but I've worked in the grocery industry and seen this happen MANY times.

People claim they got sick from the food that they got for free and threaten to sue the stores, too!

It's a no win situation for the stores!

July 11 2011 at 8:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sue1offive's comment

station a 24/7 cop next to the dumpster; just don't put any donuts in it

July 12 2011 at 12:25 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I worked for a winn dixie years ago, they marked things down practicly free that were still good but close to being out of date. Not for profit at all but so lower income folks(older ppl mostly) could take advantage. well the ppl in there cadillacs would be there waiting at the back doors waiting for the mark downs or poking there heads thru the back doors telling us to hurry they didnt have all day. some ppl actualy would peel the mark down stickers off and try and bring things back and get full price! And the ppl that needed it the most couldnt get there early enough on the bus to get the deals. plus the store started losing money bc ppl would say..just wait and watch the dates,theyll mark it down! so dont be so judmental on these stores.

July 11 2011 at 7:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Activists rarely check facts. They prefer to show self-righteousness and indignation to attack those they don't like or agree with.

July 11 2011 at 4:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Philip Nolan

Trader Joes may just be complying with local laws. Did the "activists" bother to check that little issue?

July 11 2011 at 3:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Brooks Smothers

I used to work at a Trader Joe's in PA and that particular store donated all the food that was to expire to a local non-profit organization to feed their homeless. The non-profit came at least 3 times a week to pick up the free food.I think these activists need to do more research before they start their campaigns. It just makes them look foolish....

July 11 2011 at 1:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply