A Small Town in Spain Fights Food Waste With a Humble Refrigerator

CC BY 2.0. JD Hancock

The ingenious "Solidarity Fridge" is located on a public street, where anyone can donate or take leftover food.

The residents of Galdakao, Spain, have tackled food waste in a highly unconventional and creative way. On April 30, the Association of Volunteers of Galdakao, led by Álvaro Saiz, installed a refrigerator on the side of a public street. This “Solidarity Fridge,” or frigorífico solidario, is a place where anyone can leave leftover food or take it home to eat.

Saiz makes it very clear that this fridge is not meant exclusively for the hungry or needy of the community; rather, its purpose is to combat food waste and to find a use for food that would otherwise get thrown out.

“This isn’t charity. It’s about making use of food that would otherwise end up in the bin,” he told The Guardian. “It doesn’t matter who takes it. Julio Iglesias could stop by and take the food. At the end of the day it’s about recovering the value of food products and fighting against waste.”

The Solidarity Fridge has salvaged an estimated 200 to 300 kilograms (440 to 660 lbs) in its first two months of operation. Individuals and local restaurants have contributed foods such as lentils, tortillas, ice cream, smoothies, and meat skewers, all labeled with the date they were left in the fridge.

There are a few rules about what cannot be donated – no raw meat, seafood, or eggs, or anything past its expiry date. Homemade food is fine, as long as it has a label stating when it was made. The idea is to donate food that you would want to eat yourself.

Volunteers check the fridge daily to make sure the contents are appropriate. Saiz told La Sexta that, despite having had hundreds of different foods donated and taken away, the volunteers have not had to throw anything away and there have been no acts of vandalism to date.

This is a wonderful idea that has resonated greatly with people. It’s appealing for being such an accessible and tangible way of combatting food waste; you can actually see the food going in and disappearing. The Guardian reports that “Saiz has received phone calls from communities across the country – and from as far as Bolivia – from people interested in setting up similar operations.”

The community of Murcia, 400 miles south of Galdakao, has set up its own Solidarity Fridge since learning of its success. Now I’m wondering how I could make something like this work in my own community, although I’d have to figure out how and where to keep a public fridge through the depths of snowy winter.