Waste on Passover

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I have always been a Passover hater. There aren’t that many of us, but what we lack in numbers we make up for in fervor.

There are really lots of things on my list of reasons why Passover makes me angry:

–two seders is too many
–here’s an opportunity to trick people into buying expensive things they don’t need
–would you like some cardboard with your cholesterol?
–let’s read a poem about sex and pretend it’s about God
–and let’s clean the entire house, and then spend a week eating the world’s messiest food all over the place

but this year, number one on the list is the amount of waste that goes along with this holiday.

In general, we see an extraordinary amount of waste in our everyday lives. Food waste, which is upsetting if you think about the number of hungry people in the world, but also just a lack of thought about what happens to garbage once it leaves your garbage can. Until we start shooting our trash into outer space we have to make our peace with the fact that there’s finite amount of space in the world for the things we throw out, which means we need to throw out less.

In the observant world, as Passover approaches people begin to purge their homes and kitchens of hametz. This is done, to some degree, via using up non-Pesach friendly items before Pesach, but it also ends up meaning that many people go through their fridges in the days before Passover and toss out odds and ends they might have actually eaten if they’d had the chance. There is undoubtedly a feeling of liberation that comes with purging your fridge, but unless you’re able to get someone to come and take the last few tablespoons of mustard, the heel of cheese, the half bottle of pomegranate juice you never liked, then what you’re doing is just throwing lots of things out–being wasteful.

And it doesn’t end with the preparations. Once the holiday begins we’ll all be eating immense holiday meals, for which there is very likely going to be lots of leftovers. Will the leftovers be finished? If not, that’s more food going in the trash. (And remember, this is a holiday about the hardships of slavery, which includes hunger. We say, “Let all who are hungry come and eat” and then we toss perfectly good food into the trash. I’m just saying.)

Let’s also talk about Passover dishes. Do you have some? Or, are you planning on going the paper/plastic route? Since I’ll be back at my apartment for the last days of Passover I’ve bought a couple of basic cooking utensils, and I’m planning to get a set of Preserve dishes and silverware, but even this is more wasteful than just using real plates. And getting a set of real plates to use for three days a year also seems pretty wasteful. You may notice that lots of families just skip the Pesach dishes thing entirely and go 100% disposable for Pesach. I understand the instinct, but the amount of trash that produces is really upsetting.

Finally, when Passover is over and you still have half a jar of Passover tomato sauce, are you going to use it? Or will it go in the trash when it’s more attractive and enticing non-Pesadik cousin can come back into the rotation? Growing up, the Pesach products were rarely finished by the end of the holiday, and were often kept around with the best of intentions until they grew mold, and we could feel okay about tossing them.

I just think it’s deeply problematic to have a holiday about liberation from slavery that somehow involves all of us creating vast amounts of waste. “Woooo, we’re free, let’s pollute and throw trash wherever we want because no one can stop us!

In conclusion: Pesach sucks.

Posted on April 15, 2011

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3 thoughts on “Waste on Passover

  1. Pesele

    So what you’re really saying here isn’t that Pesach sucks, but that Pesach, as celebrated in the observant world, has developed a culture of waste. Now that sucks–and I can’t believe that it’s necessary. Surely there is a way for Jews both to observe halakhah and conserve waste.

  2. Brian Vetruba

    I love Pesach. Passover as a celebration of coming out of slavery and welcoming the stranger is one of the reasons I chose to become Jewish. We take part in not less than five seders each year, each with a different theme. I find them rejuvenating.

    That being said, I understand Tamar’s feelings about waste and the amount of resources used to get rid of Chametz. I always cringe hearing about people throwing out Chametz products and don’t get me started on the need to have a special set of Pesach dishes. In preparation for our first Passover, I saw Michael, my husband, getting ready to throw out some flour. A heated debate ensued. We came to an agreement that we box up our Chametz and put the items in another room for the eight days. We also bring some of our Chametz to a food pantry. Waste of food is a bigger no-no in my book than having a half-eaten box of cereal in the house. And we don’t go through the house with a feather either. In the bigger scheme of things, I don’t think G-d will mind.

    Chag Sameach!

    Brian Vetruba

  3. June Andrews

    Just learning about this & have not gone thru my kitchen the week just before Sedar but I think we need to clean out but use wisdom. It would probably be better to choose 1 or 2 cupboards periodically through the year and be more careful to use up some of the older things that have been open before buying more.

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