Dumpster Diving for Dinner

By Mia Robinson


In the last few years, sustainable living and environmental awareness have become less for the tree-hugging hippy and more of a global trend. It is now cool to care. But how far will those hoping to make a change actually go?

In many circles dumpster diving, or ‘freeganism’, is becoming as hip as becoming vegetarian or vegan. Unbelievably, if you hang out with the right people, spending your evenings sifting through garbage in a skip behind Coles is a social norm. So why on earth would anyone get their hands and shoes dirty to eat what the average person wouldn’t buy?

Something that not many people are aware of is that over half of the fresh food you see on the shelves at Coles or Woolworths will be not bought but thrown out. On average, thirty per cent of the animals that are slaughtered to put meat products on the shelves will die for nothing, because the meat ends up in the bin. A waste of life and a waste of time. Thousands upon thousands of dollars every year are spent growing too much food for supermarkets so that the consumer can have an abundance of whatever they want on demand. The consequence of this is immeasurable waste. Dumpster diving reduces this waste. It’s free, and you aren’t contributing to mass production.

In my share house, we have an initiation ritual. Any new housemate must go on a dumpster dive, just one. We have had people from all kinds of cultures and backgrounds living in our house, and not one of them had ever rummaged through a bin late at night before living with us. So you can imagine the fear and bewilderment they feel watching me hunched over with a head torch throwing fresh food at them from inside a dumpster. It’s a lot to take in, but I can tell you that after finding $200 worth of perfectly edible food in a bin, they all have the same reaction: ‘This is so sad, how can society do this?’

The experience is certainly an eye opener.

What’s really interesting is the variety of people you will meet on your dumpster diving travels. There is one lovely gentleman that we often run into, who frequents the bins of local green grocers. He is a successful architect, with a family of four. If you saw on the street in his suit and tie, you would never guess that he slips into bins by night to scavenge for his family like a raccoon.

In Brisbane there are so many people practicing freeganism that they have codes of conduct for dumpster diving. Each person is only allowed to take a certain amount of items from the bin at one time, and if you find more than one of something you must leave it on a crate next to the bin for others to share.

Take from this article what you will, but next time you see someone in a bin, don’t be too quick to assume that they are homeless or unable to afford food. They may well be doing it for ethical reasons, saving the world one piece of food at a time. As they say, every bit counts.


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