Dumpster Diving is Political?

I have an explanation for why many people think “dumpster diving” is gross, cheap (in the negative sense), and something they would never do. It’s because recovering reusable and recyclable items from the trash, is largely a political statement. Many people are conditioned to reject things political in nature, so they reject dumpster diving which is a huge embodiment of political problems, from municipal right up to federal and global policy.

Two weeks of workplace trash, inspected by the people who threw it away, yielded tons of recyclable, or easily reusable material.

It’s not just the homeless and starving that happily walk up to a dumpster with the intention of taking things out of it, instead of discarding “trash”. There are organized, and unaffiliated dumpster divers who do it as a hobby or for political activism too.

Money is thrown out regularly. Besides the usual pennies, there are entire piggy banks that get discarded because the waster didn’t take the effort to roll or spend the coinage they collected. I’ve found caches of coins multiple times, outside my home in a block of apartment buildings. When you think of how many apartment buildings there are across the country, multiply those thousands of coins by how many dumpsters contain hastily discarded items at move-outs, and it’s no wonder the Canadian Mint has to make so much costly new coinage every year.


I love the part where the guy incredulously states that, “They don’t throw out food that looks like that!” Yes sir, they do every day, and that’s why it’s easy to be freegan, without being “desperate” or “undignified”. Assumptions about people who salvage “trash”, can often be wrong because the incomprehensible levels of waste go unnoticed by those not keeping an eye on the bins.

Keeping all that in mind, I hope it doesn’t turn your stomach to think that people might eat food out of trash bins. We’re not talking about half eaten sandwiches, t-bone steaks, or spoiled yogurt. Last year that was my perception, but that was last year. There are soup cans and packages, noodles, cereal, grains, candies, and a multitude of foods that don’t easily spoil or expire which are pitched by people and stores that bought too much and their greed or inability to store/distribute the food simply caught up with them. Freegans protest this waste by stopping as much of it as they individually can, both by saving good food, and avoiding/reducing monetary support of the system that wastes the food in the first place.

25 responses to “Dumpster Diving is Political?

  1. If a store wasn’t afraid of being sued for giving away “bad” food, they would probably donate to a shelter or such.

  2. I’ve never had to dumpster dive for food thankfully. About 20+ years ago we dumster dived at an Ikea plant. We asked Ikea for permission. My husband built a really nice kitchen from some of the wood they threw out.

    I believe in recycling big time. We have a very good recycling program where I live. Small metal items like cans, etc. get put out for recycling. If one puts old large applicances that contain metal the night before garbage day, you can be assured that they will be gone before the garbage trucks arrive. There’s money to be made in old metal.

  3. I know a friend of mine used to work in the Dairy department in a Grocery store. They would toss out all kinds of dairy Products because of the expiry date on them. Most were still good to eat or drink but new product comes in so often that it has to be chucked. I think the same thing happens with a lot of the other types of products.

  4. Sour cream can be good months after the expiry date (if refrigerated of course), and cheese is good so long as you cut off the molded outside. With an organization like Quest, Regina could solve its food distribution problem.

  5. In Toronto, if you are caught taking anything out of the garbage can or you can be fined to the tune of $300 plus dollars – the mayor doesn’t want anyone taking away his ‘recycling’ dollars…me, I don’t care and am just happy if someone can find a use for something I know longer have a use for.

  6. I figured there’d be greedy cities looking to protect ‘their’ recycling goods. The Supreme Court of Canada confirmed last year that trash left on the curb is anyone’s property.

  7. What’s one more reason to do that? It doesn’t benefit anyone by doing so, if you mean you want to prevent dumpster divers from picking reusable items out of the trash. If you have anything to throw away that you wouldn’t want someone else to have, you’d be wise to destroy it before disposing of it; not every dumpster diver is ethical obviously.

  8. Just found this on google:) Nice site.

    I’m a dumpster diver, I go out most Sundays and look around and often get good stuff.

    All of my small appliances came from the trash, tables, chairs, stands, etc.

    I’ve saves hundreds if not thousands of dollars over and my stuff is as good as anyone else’s, just a bit older.

    All small towns in Nova Scotia are a good place to dumpster drive:)

    • I don’t go out seeking food while diving, but the quality items find me. Everything from sealed Belgian chocolates, to soup in cans, to trail mix, to apple juice (yes, in sealed tetrapaks, not mysterious yellow water in bottles ;).

      The latest significant find I’ve not tested yet is a 5.1 DVD player with speaker system with remote control. I also picked up a perfect replacement to the scanner/printer I recycled at SARCAN today, just by asking someone who came in with their working scanner if I could have it and the speakers. Saved them both from destruction before their time. The scanner is an energy efficient, USB powered, Canon LED type that I was going to seek out if I ever decided to replace my Lexmark MFP scanner. No seeking required, it fell into my lap.

  9. considering how much food costs are going up, you would think restaurants and grocery stores would find more resourceful ways of getting rid of unwanted food. Considering how many people are starving on the streets of our own cities (depends on where you live), this food should be going to shelters instead of the garbage cans. Not only does this look good for companies, but it also saves them a ton of dough.

  10. this is all about reuse and recycle….. repurposing food should be obvious… for the fact that it grosses out people says that we come from a very wealthy environment…. people who are starving in the world today wouldn’t think twice about dumpster diving…. they would exclaim, “thanks for the food” and dive right in!!

    • Precisely. Unless someone is told that the food’s container has been discarded/stored outside, there’s no difference to the (non-perishable) food inside the container. It’s psychological. It’s also a $25 billion economic growth opportunity for Canada because that’s how much is presently wasted EACH YEAR.

      • You have it backwards. Wasting food is good for the economy. The more people buy new food the better…. Or something like that.

  11. As an active gardener, in the past I have retrieved a ton of plants, flowers, veggies, trees etc. from big chain store dumpsters. I really have no problem with this since it’s living matter and can not be compromised by an expiry date, bed bugs or whatever else. I have never made a mess, or attracted attention to myself and use common sense in doing so etc. In some instances I have even asked permission or offered to pay a small fee for the priviledge. Well let me tell you, these million dollar+ chain stores are livid and go to all kinds of lengths (spending big bucks to protect their trash). I took out a tray of small flowers (in a bin from behind the store) only to be chased down and threatened by a big bully security at the orange home improvement store in south common. Same treatment at the Big Blue R store – after retrieving a large bunch of tomato plants (we had a tomato bounty that year…yum and great fun & enjoyment watching them grow and giving to others). Over the last few years I have planted flowers at cemetaries, nursing homes etc. And many have enjoyed them in places they could not afford to have them otherwise. (at anywhere from $4-$10+++ per flower/plant, it doesn’t take much to spend $200-$300 to plant an average flower bed each year (in our cold Canadian climate). And many can’t afford that.)

    Well let me tell you, they now spent thousands putting chain link around the bin with barbed wire. I am really disgusted by the greed and inefficiency of these chains. So much money and resources go into producing these items in greenhouses, transport etc. (which they try to unsuccessfully recoupe with ridiculous price tags) only to have thousands and thousands of dollars thrown away every year. In speaking to staff and managers in the past (in trying to recover items that were in or on their way to disposal) I have met with ridiculous excuses – it is going back to the greehouse (when clearly it wasn’t), it is a write off and can’t be used by anyone, it’s against store policy. Oh my goodness….these are the same stores claiming to be green, reuse – recycle etc. Ya ….right! Ineffiencency + inflated prices + resistance to change = huge waste.

  12. Bread and buns are thrown out everyday by big chain stores. They said they can’t take it to food banks because of their union?

    • they are trying to protect their bottom line. They want people to buy their highly overpriced items. So many stores do this and are so very wasteful. If you wonder why a loaf of bread costs $5 and a basic queen mattress $1,000+++ to buy new. It is because 3-5 were returned and were written off. You are essentially paying for a stores bad distribution and liberal return policy. RIDICULOUS!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s