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#6 The Politics of Dumpster Diving

This week, Green&Hungry went dumpster diving. The first time I saw someone digging in trash bins for food was a few years ago in Bosnia. The homeless man was looking for food in the trash, because he couldn’t afford to pay for it. Today, many of my friends go digging in dumpsters a few nights a week – they do it by choice, not because they need to. For them though, dumpster diving is a way to reclaim food that has been wasted by big supermarket chains, a bit like a modern day Robin Hood. It’s interesting how dumpster diving has turned into a trend, while being poor is still considered to be shameful…

Why do supermarkets throw away that much food though? And where is it going? According to the supermarket who’s trash containers we invaded, they donate still edible foods to charity. Everything else will be turned into biogas. This is common practice in Switzerland. Most things we found in the supermarket’s trash though, were definitely still edible – perfectly fine food which could have fed a lot of people. Apparently, their are some issues with donating… Many charities have strict rules on which foods to accept: No eggs or mayonnaise, no fish, no foods past their expiry date, and so on.

Of course, this is to ensure safety for the consumers. Still, turning food into biogas is very inefficient, both energy- and effortwise. What’s better, feeding people (possibly unsafe) food or producing biogas which then is only used for the supermarket’s trucks? And is dumpster diving a good way to improve the system, or just treating the symptoms instead of the cause?

Either way, dumpster diving has proven to be a good way to find foods which we wouldn’t be able to grow or produce ourselves. It’s definitely a helpful addition to our self-sufficient lifestyle and we intend to go diving a few more times.

More links on dumpster diving:

Information about Freeganism, including dumpster diving. http://freegan.info/

Charity in the US that serves wasted food to people in need. http://foodnotbombs.net/

Swiss charity offering wasted food to people in need.

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