Closing time in the Parisian markets, and the streets are not left bare. Increasing numbers of people come to look for fruit and vegetables left behind by stall owners. And you don't have to be poor to take part.  

Scavenging is an ancient practice in France. "Glanage", or gleaning, used to refer to the collection of barley left behind after the harvest. Today, gleaners are people who, short of means, scour market floors and supermarket rubbish bins for unsold products.

Far from being rare, social welfare programme boss Martin Hirsch ordered a report into the practice, which was published this month. The report lists the various methods of modern scavenging, and the variety of people who have turned to it, which is far more diverse than you might have thought. Sent on to major aid and commercial associations, the report's authors hope to encourage supermarkets to think about making unsold products easier to get hold of. 

"Thanks to this I manage to live on 90 euros a month"

Triskel is a gleaner from Aix-en-Provence. He launched an online Freegan - alternative, Vegan, non-material dependent - community in France.

I started looking through bins because I was hard-up. And then, along with some friends, we realised we could feed our whole squat. We started with McDonalds, then supermarkets, then markets.

Now it's become a way of life. I pick up everything. We learned quickly how to live exclusively from stuff we found on the street. For example, if someone needs a bed, you only need to find a sofa on the street and you've got a bed. I manage to live on 90 euros a month - that's what I earn selling some of the stuff that I find.

I go gleaning at the market when I wake up in the morning. With what we get we make a soup. And on the market we don't get any bother from the stall owners. We go in a group of three, and start rummaging through the crates they're packing up. You have to get there before the bin men arrive, but even they're getting used to us and leave us the crates that are full.

Homeless people never scavenge. They watch us from the bench, drinking their beers. Sometimes we give them some stuff. Most gleaners have some kind of home. Mostly I see students and old people. At first, it 's hard to see people looking at you scavenging. But between ourselves, we chat and swap products. We help each other. If someone finds a crate full of cauliflowers, he'll hand them out to others. And sometimes stall owners give us crates directly. The coolest are the small producers. With the bigger merchants, it's more complicated."

Gleaners at work in Wazemme, near Lille (north France)

Photos posted on Picassa by Aurélien.


And in Paris...

Photos posted on Flickr by Hamelin Sébastien.