Food Option: How to Dumpster Dive
by Ded Bolt •
Thursday August 29, 2002 at 02:25 PM
Dumpster diving is a liberating act. You can find all the necessities
of life in the trash. When poking around in the waste of our consumer
society, I'm likely to find fresh organic coconuts, roasted garlic hummus,
bagels, soy ice cream (partially melted) and many other tasty
A tip for finding the best dumpsters is to check the phone
book and keep and eye out for wholesale distributors. Many grocers
will discard more than enough nightly to feed the average family.
In most of the world, things are discarded because they are no
longer useful or edible. In this country, goods are discarded when they
are no longer profitable, no matter that many people struggle to feed
themselves. Some foods are cooked or baked for same-day sale.
Grocery stores discard produce with minor blemishes, and in many
cases fruits are discarded just as they begin to ripen. Food is usually
trashed once it has reached its expiration or sell-by date, which is
often arbitrary. Foods damaged during shipping or stocking are often
fresher than what remains on the shelves.
The Environmental Protection Agency has rated dumpster diving
(or source reduction and reuse) as the best environmental strategy for
dealing with municipal solid waste. Yet in 1999, the U.S. wasted more
than 25 million tons of food, approximately .5 pounds of food per person
per day, compared to .3 pounds in 1960.
Dumpstering is not an option for everyone. Nor is it any more a revolutionary
act than dropping out and living in the wilderness or eating a
vegan diet. It neither supports the system of hierarchy and oppression
nor threatens it. However, for many dumpstering is a small part of an
environmentally conscious lifestyle. Practiced in conjunction with
squatting, it makes possible a life free of work and money. The more we
liberate ourselves, the more we are able to help others.
Mr. Bolt is an anarchist who’s been active in Food Not Bombs, The
Mutual Support Network and More Gardens Coalition. He’s explored
dumpsters throughout North America and has appeared on PBS’s Life
360 and National Public Radio on the subject.