Note from FaveHealthyRecipes.com Editor Matthew Kaplan: This is an article I wrote about 2 years. The topic of food waste remains just as important now as it was then, so here I am sharing this article with you all here on the RecipeLion blog.
I know this topic brings up a lot of varied reactions, so please comment below to weigh in on this topic.
Did you know that about 25% of all food in the U.S. gets thrown out in a given day, according to the USDA. That’s quite the statistic, especially considering that a University of Arizona study suggested that convenience stores, supermarkets and restaurants throw out more than 25 million tons of food every year. That’s a lot of good food gone bad. But all that food that gets thrown away must be tossed for a reason, right?
Well, not everyone agrees with this assessment. A growing number of people don’t think all that food being thrown away is bad. Now there is a growing movement of people who dumpster dive food.
â€œWait, what?â€ you ask yourself, â€œPeople actually go into dumpsters and take food from them? And they actually eat that food?â€ Well, yes. The idea of eating food from the trash goes against all the hygiene rules many of us were taught, but consider these facts and dumpster diving stories first.
- The USDA admits that 25% of all food gets thrown out, and some studies put that figure even higher. Within those millions of tons of food, not all of it is truly bad. After all, which one of us hasn’t ever thrown out perfectly good food?
- One night, 2 friends of mine found 9 unopened soy milk boxes in a dumpster behind a bookstore. The boxes were full, still sealed and had not reached their expiration or sell by dates. Yet there they were, discarded in a dumpster.
- Another time, yet another friend of mine (what can I say, I hang out with some interesting folks) was at one of the Boston area’s top dumpster diving spots and pulled out a bag of seven Granny Smith apples. 6 were in great shape, but the last one was rotten to the core. My friend simply tossed out the rotten one and had the remaining tasty apples for the week.
The last of the dumpster diving stories best illustrates why freegans, the name used for people who reclaim edible items, dumpster dive food. For better or for worse, supermarkets, restaurants or other places that sell food are a business. The purpose of any business is to make a profit. If the business doesn’t think they can make any money on it, they throw it away. Granted, many places are very generous about donating what food they can, but many states and localities have strict rules dictating the quality of food that can be given away. With the apple story, a store can’t hope to sell or give away a pre-packaged bag of apples where one is rotten, so the whole thing gets thrown out.
â€œOK, fine,â€ you’re saying to yourself, â€œI can understand why so much food gets thrown away, but it cannot be safe or healthy to dumpster dive food.â€ Truthfully, this aspect of dumpster diving analysis gets tricky and completely rests on a person’s comfort level. Dumpsters are not the most hygienic places, but as anyone who has ever worked around food can tell you, restaurants and supermarkets aren’t always the cleanest places either. Sure, only hearty souls dumpster dive food that has been sitting exposed at the bottom of a dumpster on a warm night. However, some places will take all their leftover bread, put it in one clean trash bag and leave that bag at the top of the dumpster. It just all comes down to your comfort level with particular dumpster diving spots.
Here are some tips and tricks if you do decide to dumpster dive food:
- Research dumpster diving spots in your area. Some places will have more food than others. Scout out a targeted area first to see if it is safe. Look for places that pride themselves on having only fresh, high quality goods. The more fresh items in the store, the more food most likely is thrown out. Consider the type of food a particular dumpster will have. Do you want to be eating donuts from the bakery or green vegetables from the health food mart?
- Be safe and be health conscious. Go with a friend just in case anything bad happens. Come equipped with gloves, a light source and hand sanitizer, as you should be prepared to get your hands dirty. Make sure that you will not be hurting yourself, others or property when you dumpster dive food. Be a critical â€œshopperâ€ when you dumpster dive food. When in doubt, throw it (back) out. Also, make sure you are not breaking any local laws by dumpster diving.
- Be considerate of others. Usually, people dumpster dive food at night after a particular store has closed. If a dumpster is in a residential area, be considerate of the people that are sleeping. Also, try not to make a huge mess. Employees do not want to clean up after you, and you may be accidentally putting a business in legal trouble by leaving trash on the ground.
â€œAll right,â€ you say, â€œI suppose I can see where you’re coming from with this dumpster diving analysis, but this just doesn’t seem right to me.â€ Depending where you are, attempting to dumpster dive food is illegal for a variety of reasons. We do not endorse and/or support anything illegal. Please make sure to look into area laws before attempting to engage in any activity. For example, make sure you are not trespassing when you dumpster dive food. Also, in many places the items in a dumpster are considered the property of the dumpster’s owner, meaning that taking anything from that dumpster is technically considered theft.
Dumpster diving may not be for everyone, but you will be surprised at the quality and quantity of food that gets thrown away every day.
What do you think? Would you ever consider dumpster diving for food?