Ending the month, limiting waste: why they decide to scavenge

The gleaners search the bins of the supermarkets of Grenoble to recover the food.
The gleaners search the bins of the supermarkets of Grenoble to recover the food. (©UM/news Grenoble)

For fight against waste distribution, a small group of Grenoble residents meet every Monday. They search the trash cans stores to collect all the products still consumables.

An approach ecological, civic and financial. These students, these fathers and mothers and these unemployed find the opportunity not to end the month with an empty fridge.

“It was a rainy evening and I was hungry”

Night has just fallen, when a dozen gleaners meet on Monday, September 26, 2022. The place is secret. A special operation in the heart of Grenoble (Isère) led by charliethe phone taped to his ear and Jean Valjean’s cap screwed to his head.

During adolescence, punctuated by precariousness, but also through solidarity, he experienced squats. “I remember it was a rainy evening and I was hungry. I saw a crate with yogurts and cakes and the squat managers told me to help myself. »

An intrigued time, this scene goes give ideas to young Charlie. The years go by and the people of Grenoble build themselves up, especially at Notre-Dame des Landes. An indignation will be born in him: the food waste of the stores.

In March 2015the Brotherhood of Gleaners is launched in Grenoble.

Civil disobedience assumed

Back to this early autumn evening. The 12 volunteers, less numerous than expected – which does not fail to sadden Charlie – are ready to leave. That evening, three groups will share the supermarkets of Grenoble and neighboring towns.

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The leader of the group takes over the management of the shops in the city center, accompanied by his faithful right-hand man, Stéphanie*. On the way to Franprix, gleaners evoke a sometimes stormy context out of the bins: “There are independent gleaners and some are less respectful than us. »

The Brotherhood of Gleaners clean every place where they empty the trash cans.
The Brotherhood of Gleaners clean every place where they empty the trash cans. (©UM / news Grenoble)

By recovering foodstuffs, the Brotherhood of Gleaners flirts with the limits of legality. “When you’re in town, the bins are placed in the public space, which poses no problem. We collect large, medium and small surfaces in the villages with the dumpster and from time to time, we have to enter private property, ”says Charlie.

Aware of the illegality of this action, they prefer to evoke a “non-violent civil disobedience” and ensure “to leave clean” the places where they have passed.

Stores that tolerate

It is 8 p.m. sharp when an employee of the Franprix, in the city center, takes out the trash. Barely time to thank him that the gleaners rush for food.

Under the amazed look of some passers-byCharlie and Stephanie search for the products they can eat.

Charlie is in charge of all operations in Grenoble.
Charlie is in charge of all operations in Grenoble. (©UM / news Grenoble)

A kind oftacit agreement has been concluded with the majority of stores. At the bend of a aisle, a Franprix employee confided to us that he “didn’t have a choice”. “Is this legal?” That’s the whole question…”, replies the man, pensive.

What the law says ?

On February 11, 2016, a law against food waste was enacted. The text prohibits the bleaching of unsold products still suitable for consumption. Medium and large surfaces must conclude agreements with charities.
If the Brotherhood of Gleaners does not fully fall within this framework, a tolerance vis-à-vis their action is granted by the public authorities and the police.

A fair distribution

After scouring the garbage cans of four signs, Charlie, Carole and Jérémy, a newcomer who joined them during the evening, walk towards their premises. A place that will remain secret.

Jérémy has just arrived at the gleaners. On the advice of a friend, this student Grenoble wanted to get their hands dirty. He doesn’t mind rummaging through trash cans. For those who “dream of having their own farm”, the movement carried by Charlie is beautiful in what it has Politics.

“I am very attached to these initiatives which highlight other ways to consume »underlines the twenty-something.

Charlie, who works as a territorial agent in Échirolles (Isère), endeavors to verify the identity of each person who wishes to join the Brotherhood of gleaners. “Our mission requires respect, investment and solidarity and I don’t want to let anyone in. »

If there were twelve at the start, they are more than twenty people who meet at the stroke of 10 p.m. People leaving work or with reduced mobility joined the forces.

The gleaners search the garbage cans from top to bottom so as not to let anything pass.
The gleaners search the garbage cans from top to bottom so as not to let anything pass. (©UM / news Grenoble)

Why not allow all Grenoble residents to benefit?

Charlie thought of exposing the food found in the garbage cans in the public square. After a first experiment, he judged that the necessary organization was too important. He evokes a national movement, the Wasters: “Their only objective is to expose everything they recover. On our side, we want to benefit the people who need it.”

Four tables are used to deposit the finds of the gleaners, while respecting an order: fruits and vegetables, fresh products, baguettes, etc. The time is at division : nine products for the drivers, four products for those who participated in the action and then everyone helps themselves a second time, without any limit.

A pretty crazy amount of food is laid out on tables, especially when you remember that it was meant to be thrown away.

The gleaners display all the food items they have been able to recover.
The gleaners display all the food items they have been able to recover. (©UM / news Grenoble)

Despite precarious situationsthe Brotherhood of Gleaners seems to be a breath of human and financial air.

Myrtille* contemplates the quantity of food harvested: “It’s nice to see what we are able to do with our group. » With her red raincoat, she makes the rounds of the gleaners to come to news.

“So work? Your family is going well ? “Launches the volunteer with a vengeance. A natural generosity that allows the Brotherhood of Gleaners to strengthen the bonds of its members. Myrtille tells us that the food she collects will allow her to last a week.

“We are an alternative”

The main idea is that of an association which makes it possible to give food to people in need. ” We are an alternative for all those who are not entitled to Restos du Cœur. »

It is with respect that the members of the association share the food.
It is with respect that the members of the association share the food. (©UM / news Grenoble)

Charlie does not hide a certain pride in having been able help so many people. This Monday, when the members are dividing up the food, he stays behind and slips in: “Look… look how beautiful it is. The evening ends with a beer. Shopping bags filled with fruits and vegetables and hearts filled with warmth.

*Names changed

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