Monday, 30 May 2016

Dumpster Diving Myths

I hear a lot of myths about dumpster diving, so I thought it would be good to address these on the blog.

It’s dirty / disgusting, or simply: Ewww!
This is actually not so much the case, at least here in Norway. The food is often packaged in plastic and thrown out in garbage bags. This means it doesn’t get in touch with the ‘dumpster juice’ that can often be found on the bottom of dumpsters and is probably teeming with life. So yeah, of course things can get dirty, but it’s all about using common sense.
Also, most dumpsters are filled to the brim with goodies, so you don't actually have to 'dive' in. Instead, you just pick out the groceries you need. 

There are rats
I have never, ever, seen a rat in or near any dumpster. I have seen birds though. I have even seen birds ‘dumpster dive’ those half open garbage cans in the city; usually making a mess while they are at it, spreading unusable items all around it. But they usually can’t get into supermarket dumpsters, because most of them are closed off.

It’s illegal
Actually, in most countries dumpster diving is not illegal. It may also not be legal (it may merely get tolerated), but you cannot get arrested for it in most places. So strictly in legal terms, ‘not illegal’ and ‘legal’ may not be the same thing, but in practice and for you personally there is not much difference.

It’s dangerous
Again, this is a matter of using common sense. Don’t dive during the day or when the dumpster is getting emptied. Don’t go into dumpsters that are difficult to get out of again. And bring a friend who can be on the lookout if necessary.

You can get caught and get in trouble
Yes, this is possible, but if you go well after closing time, then it is highly unlikely that you will get caught by store personnel. And police doesn’t really care, even though they may ask you what you are doing. I have been diving with police driving past several times and they didn’t even stop to ask what I was doing.
I have been diving for two years and almost every day. I have been 'caught' by personnel on approximately 8 occasions (all of them during opening hours). It helps to do some research on your favorite dumpster: when is staff around? When do they throw out the goodies? And just dive with respect and discretion.

Dumpster divers only eat bad/expired food
I used to believe this myself. I could not believe that supermarkets would throw away perfectly good food. And yet, this keeps happening. Of course there is always some ‘bad’ food in there too, but most of the time the majority is good stuff. Perhaps fruits and vegetables have some blemishes, but probably these won’t ruin the taste or can be easily sliced off.
Sometimes you can even find stuff that is not yet expired and even (almost) fresh! Usually this happens when they get a lot new shippings of something (like strawberries and other fruits when they are in season), or when the store closes for a couple of days due to holidays. This is when I found these raspberries in the dumpster, which look better than they do most of the time in the shops!

Dumpster diving is for poor / homeless people
Well, it’s a great way to eat for free, so why not? Having said that, I have never met a homeless person at the dumpsters, and I have met plenty of dumpster divers. So eating out of dumpsters doesn’t make you homeless. It makes you a caring human being who doesn’t like to see food go to waste; or a practical person who doesn’t like to buy stuff from inside a store when the same stuff gets discarded through the backdoor. What is the point of that anyway?

For more tips on diving, and a guide on how to get started, read Dumpster Diving 101.

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  1. I'm new to this blog after finding an article about you on Facebook. While I myself cannot dumpster dive, I appreciate and see the merits of your efforts and I donate food and do not waste what I have. I practice voluntary simplicity and I am always looking for new ideas. I look forward to reading more of your posts and best of luck with your doctoral pursuits.

    1. Thanks, E! I hope you will find some new ideas here. The posts are organized by some main categories which you can find at the top. I hope that helps navigate the blog. Great to hear you're also helping the earth and making valuable contributions! <3

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