Someone needs to come up with a name for “perfectly-good-quality, yet discarded food.” When I say “food from a dumpster,” the immediate reaction tends to be a wrinkled nose. Folks picture rancid meat, moldy bread, and melting veggies in a smelly, unfriendly metal dumpster. While this can be the case, it most often is not.
For as long as our unsustainable society insists on wasting edible food, there will be people, mindful of this tragedy, to remediate it. They are known as “dumpster divers.”
Dumpster diving is a sustainable act — again, as long as our society insists on being too wasteful for sustainability. The food is there, and it is headed for a landfill. What is the logical thing to do?
Dumpster diving takes good food out of the dumpsters and uses it to feed people. We reduce the company’s garbage bill, because they pay to tow their waste to a landfill. Plus, we get fed. And we don’t have to spend a cent. You can reduce society’s food waste while ending some of your own!
Here are some handy tips for making a successful dumpster run:
- Wear dirty clothes when climbing into dumpsters. Also, use a headlamp. They are far easier than managing a flashlight with your hands full.
- Leave the dumpster in better shape than you found it. If your presence becomes a nuisance to the business owners, you can count on locked-up dumpsters.
- Don’t trust expiration dates–trust your nose and then, your tongue. Since May began, I’ve eaten countless officially-expired foods, but never anything that made me wonder whether it was still good. I haven’t gotten sick yet using this method.
- Don’t be shy. I know it will at first feel weird, even shameful, to search for food and other quality goods in dumpsters. Sometimes dumpster diving is illegal, but usually it is just the social rules that one fears breaking. You will warm up to it and learn your own tricks of the trade.
- Trust me when I say there really is a lot of food, and other stuff, to be redeemed from dumpsters.
- The best tip I’ve heard for countering someone’s rude inquiries (like “Hey! What are you doing in there?”) when dumpster diving is to answer “Looking for food.”
While I hope for a society in which good, local food will be available to all sustainably, I live in Pittsburgh, 2008. Dumpster diving is a solid interim measure between the present and utopia.