Dumpster diving was all the rage a few years ago. There were plenty of TV reports about people finding treasure (namely food) for free in store dumpsters. I thought the idea was fascinating and totally anti-establishment. But more importantly it made me think about just how wasteful we are, and how I didn’t want to be part of that.
Americans waste $165 billion worth of food from farm-to-fork. Ten percent of the entire food supply is lost at the retail level. This happens for a variety of reasons including: the consumer’s expectation of cosmetic perfection which prevents damaged or slightly irregular food products from selling; retailers being forced to buy more supply than needed from manufacturers and farmers; fresh and pre-prepared foods, which if not sold, must be thrown out each night; expired “sell by” dates forcing retailers to get rid of food even if it’s not spoiled; overstocked product displays designed to encourage consumers to buy more which also results in too much product; and low staffing which prevents stores that do prepare foods onsite from reusing sell-by products as ingredients for new products.
I wanted to be one of those eco-adventurers, anti-establisment, dumpster-diving, freegan eco-thugs dedicated to reducing our waste. But quit frankly, I can’t stand the thought of jumping into a dirty dumpster. So I decided to just tag along and drive a group of friends from dumpster-to-dumpster on a warm Texas night. (Here is my recommended dumpster-diving supply list for those that want to try it.)
We stopped at five different grocery store dumpsters between 9 and 11 pm. We were stealth, turning off our headlights as we entered the parking lots. We used flashlights and good old labor to sort through the trash. Only wrapped and boxed food, not tainted by anything in the dumpster was selected.
The night was quite successful from my perspective, although my group considered it only a mediocre night. I am most proud of the 38 bottles of Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil we fished out of an organic food grocer. I just can’t believe they threw all of that out. Sad for the world, but good for me. I should have enough olive oil for the next few years.
This was our dumpster diving haul:
1 – Seeded Watermelon
1 – Mixed Bag of Oranges, and Green and Red Apples
1 – Box of Strawberries
1 – Bag of Green Grapes
11 – Bananas
2 – Pineapples
1 – Bag of Dole All Natural Organic 50 Spinach/50 Spring Mix
2 – Bag of Dole All Natural Power Up Greens – Baby Kale
1 – Bag of Earthbound Farm Organic Romaine Lettuce
1 – Bag of White Onions
1 – Bag of Butter Red Potatos (5 lbs)
1 – Container of Sliced Bell Peppers
1 – Mixed bag of Yellow, Orange and Red Bell Peppers
1 – Bag of Green Bell Pepper
5 – Containers of Mushrooms (Button and Sliced)
2 – Bags of Carrots
1 – Bag of Sweet Peppers
Meat & Deli:
3 – Packages of Top Sirloin Steak
1 – Container of Pinwheels made from Turkey, Ham & Roast Beef deli meat
2 – Deli Chicken Salad sandwiches
1 – Deli Ham & Cheese sandwich
1 – Deli King Hawaiian Ham sandwich
2 – Deli Packages of Ham & Cheese Wraps
1 – Deli Package of Roast Beef wraps
2 – Deli Turkey 1/2 subs sandwiches
1 – Deli Ham & Cheese 1/2 sub sandwich
1 – Deli Roast Beef 1/2 sub sandwich
1 – Deli Roast Beef full sub sandwich
1 – Deli Turkey full sub sandwich
1 – Deli Ham full sub sandwich
2 – Ciabatta Breads
2 – Wheat Sandwich Breads
1 – Bag of Center Split Deli Rolls
1 – Bag of Multigrain Sandwich Bread
1 – Bag of Onion Hamburger Buns
1 – Box of 7 Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars
1 – Box of 4 Oats & Caramel Fiber Now Chewy Bar
1 – Box of 5 Cranberry Walnut Protein Meal Bars
1 – Box of 6 Blueberry Pastry Crisps
1 – Box of 6 Microwave Popcorn bags
1 – Box of 6 – 100 Calorie Cheese Crackers
1 – Bag of Tortilla Round Chips
1 – Bag of Sea Salt Pita Chips
1 – Bag of Salt & Vinegar Potato Chips
1 – Cartoon of Chocolate Donuts
1 – Baker’s Corner Devil’s Food Extra Moist Cake mix
38 – Bottles of Tierra Madre Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil (500 ML & 250 ML)
1 – Dozen Large Eggs
1 – Ketchup (38 oz)
2 – Chef’s Cupboard Stuffing for Chicken Mix
1 – Original Canola Spray (6 oz)
1 – Agave Nectar Light
2 – Containers of Bread Crumbs
1 – Package of Organic Spaghetti Noodles
1 – Box of Dog Biscuits
If you are thinking about dumpster diving, there are some rules that you must observe.
1. Leave the area neater than you found it. Just because it is a dumpster, it doesn’t mean you need to make a mess. You want to leave the area immaculate as if no one was ever there.
2. Early birds get the dumpster. If you see someone else there, don’t crowd them and try to get into the same dumpster. Either leave or come back later.
3. Be quiet and aware of security. Security officers will often run you off if they catch you. But if you are quiet and don’t appear to be disturbing anything, they may turn a blind-eye.