Unexpected treasures: Young Chinese vlogger in France tries to spark awareness on food waste issues
Published: Sep 27, 2022 06:58 PM
Editor's Note:

Young Chinese people in the new era are confident, aspirational, and responsible. With a global vision, they stand at the forefront of the times ready to fully commit. As a group with a strong sense of motivation, young Chinese people accept and respond the quickest and strongest to the world's trending schools of thought. Some of China's Generation Zers have begun to practice the tenets of their "global citizen" identity and use their thought processes and actions to influence the society.

The Global Times has therefore launched a series of introductory stories to China's Gen Zers who are concerned with different global topics, such as environmental protection, equality, and employment issues, and invites them to share their stories, sentiments, and ideas on social media platforms.

In this first installment, we met two vloggers who care about global environmental issues and use their own observations and examples to awaken people's awareness on the problem of food waste and how to live a more sustainable life.

Yooupi works at a charity kitchen in France. Photo: Courtesy of Yooupi

Yooupi works at a charity kitchen in France. Photo: Courtesy of Yooupi

Yooupi opens a dumpster, not knowing what to expect. She lets out a jubilant cry as she finds her "treasure of the day." In a big trash bag, she finds packs of bread that one might argue aren't in the best shape. "They look very good, but all wasted," she says into the camera, "you can see the beef inside is still red-colored, the vegetables are fresh, and these is some fine cheese."

In the end, Yooupi, the Chinese vlogger living in Toulouse, France, brings the trash bag along - with almost 3 dozen sandwiches, pizzas, and Panini - home. She transforms her experience of the day into a vlog and posts it online, saying that "I found a whole bag of ham bread in France, which could feed me for a whole week."

The vlog she made from her successful dumpster diving expedition was viewed more than 1.5 million times on Chinese streaming website Bilibili in just a month. "It looks delicious," some commenters said. "Now I can empathize with the pain of seeing so much food going to waste," a comment read.

Yooupi, or Ge Chenchen, who just graduated in France with a master's degree in Art, has been posting dumpster diving vlogs for a year and gained more than 800,000 subscribers on different platforms, all shocked by pictures of just how much good food is wasted, especially against the backdrop of the global food crisis.

According to the appalling statistics as provided by the World Food Programme, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons per year, worth approximately $1 trillion. All the food produced but never consumed would be sufficient to feed two billion people. That's more than twice the number of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition across the globe.

"For many of my audiences, 'picking up trash' is still a new concept," Yooupi told the Global Times. "I feel it is meaningful to show this new thing to young Chinese people. There can be a clash or fusion of different thoughts or cultures, which is good in my opinion."

Not feeling uncomfortable

Born in Southwest China's Sichuan Province in the mid-1990s, dumpster diving was also something unheard of by Yooupi a year ago.

It all began when she visited an open market at the weekend, where she saw many people, including college students and even office workers, salvaging discarded fruits and vegetables. The shop owners threw the food away because the tomatoes or apples were crushed, or because they were "ugly," she said. Moreover, the supermarkets or bakeries would dump edible foods that were "expired" according to their "best sell by" dates.

"I found this to be an interesting topic that I could use in my vlog, so I started to learn about it," she said.

She then started to practice her own dumpster diving lifestyle. 

Wasted but still edible carrots Yooupi found in a dumpster Photo: Courtesy of Yooupi

Wasted but still edible carrots Yooupi found in a dumpster Photo: Courtesy of Yooupi

Once she vlogged hundreds of beef and cod patties in a McDonald's trash can, but the bags were damaged and could not be eaten. "It was really too wasteful; this was overcapacity," she said. 

In a modern industrial society, from the farmers to the packaging workers, from shippers to retailers, then to the consumers, food waste occurs at every section.

Every year 10 million tons of food are either lost or wasted in this country, costing the French 16 billion euros annually, according to the French Agency for Ecological Transition.

"I even made friends with other 'pickers' here," she said. "We usually share information."

"My 'picker' friends vary. Some of them are really living from hand to mouth, but there were also office workers, and some are even quite wealthy," she explained. For example, there is a middle-aged man who loves to collect wood, which he uses to craft shelves or other bits of furniture.

Yooupi has also captured some people from charity organizations, who collect discarded yet still edible food to help people in need.

"For many young people here, dumpster diving is not something shameful," Yooupi concluded, "On the contrrary, it is a cool thing that could reduce the waste of food and aid in recycling efforts."

Prompt awareness

Along with numerous views on Yooupi's channel are mixed comments. There are people who have changed their mind about waste, while there are others who don't quite understand the intention behind Yoopi's efforts. 

In China, "picking up trashes" is not a positive description. It may refer to people who live a lowly life. "I was not ashamed or uncomfortable," she admitted, "as a narrator in front of camera, it was actually easier."

"For me, it is a process of learning. To complete this topic I am showing, I am consistently looking for materials," Yooupi said. 

"I made these videos just to reflect a phenomenon, not to live on picking up garbage," she said. "What is more important is the changes in values and global perceptions in the process than what I found in dumpsters. For example, I pay more attention to anti-waste and resource repurposing.""

By picking up garbage, Yooupi has gotten a better understanding of France, and she has found that she might be able to moderate her consumption and make better use of "waste" materials. 

Her deeds may also influence other people to change their mentality and lifestyles, thus finally reduces waste of the planet.