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Dumpster diving - yes or no?

Updated on August 21, 2015
Dumpster diving. Is it gross?
Dumpster diving. Is it gross? | Source

Is dumpster diving gross or not?

The first time I heard about this - the practice of rescuing thrown-away produce from trash and garbage cans - I thought how revolting that sounded.

Then I realized that if edibles are in cans or other sealed containers ... well ... maybe it's not too bad. What do you think? Is it a result of our throwaway society?

I first saw it on a TV show. It was one of those programs where two families swap mothers for a week and one of the ladies followed this practice.

You can imagine what her 'new' family thought about it! As I was watching, I thought it seemed a strange thing to do for anyone who doesn't have to do so because of financial necessity.But I recently read a report that said that between 30 and 50% of all the produce produced worldwide is thrown away.

That made me think about this issue in a completely different way. No, it didn't make me dash to the local grocery store and rummage through the huge amount of discarded cans and packages but it did make me think harder about the people who do this..In view of the enormous amount of produce that's thrown away every day, is this a legitimate activity?

Why is so much thrown away?

  • Supermarkets throw produce and packaged items away when they have reached their sell-by dates. No-one wants to buy groceries that seem to be old, so the stores and supermarkets have little alternative but to throw it away.
  • Why don't they donate it to charity? Because quite often, local health and safety regulations forbid this. And they can't give it away for fear of being sued. If someone became ill,that could be a danger. So into the trash it goes. The same applies to restaurants in some areas.
  • We as consumers like things to look good, especially the things we are going to eat. Produce that it blemished will be thrown away. Cans which are dented are discarded, as are packaged products that are no longer pristine.
  • Some grocery stores would rather order too much produce, knowing that some will be thrown away, rather than face empty shelves - if they know that they can still make a profit.
  • Sometimes stores will take a chance on a product that they haven't sold before. If its not successful, what's left will be thrown away. Some stores even charge the supplier disposal fees.

So will I do this?

Oh, I'm so tempted. I think that if there was a grocery store right around the corner (I'm lazy) I might. I'd avoid anything that wasn't in a sealed container but otherwise I don't think I'd have a problem. Groceries that were a day over their sell-by date wouldn't worry me either - especially if they don't contain meat or fish. We all know better than to eat anything that's covered in mold, or that smells weird.

The trash is emptied every day by the waste management services so nothing that's in there has been rotting away for days - or even twenty four hours. In Florida or in warm climates, they may be emptied more than once a day because of the heat.

Could you do this? Could you rummage in the garbage to find find food? What would stop you? Is it that you think it isn't hygienic? Or would you be worried about your friends seeing you?

Source

This image, which is from Wikipedia Commons, shows a man checking through the trash for discarded goods. Is this acceptable or not? Admittedly this looks as though the trash is construction stuff (I could SO make a coffee table from that wooden spool!) but what do we think if we see someone doing this? Do we assume that it's a homeless person? This man doesn't seem to be.When I was a penniless art student, I remember walking home from college (cheaper than the bus) and finding a lovely bentwood chair that had been thrown away. I rescued it and carried it home. Since that time I can't pass a pile of trash on bulk pickup day without seeing something I want to rescue. So why not produce?

What do you think?

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    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @MissRubyStars: That's quite wonderful.

    • MissRubyStars profile image

      MissRubyStars 4 years ago

      I can't bring myself to eat food from in the dumpster but I know a guy who dives a lot and makes good extra money collecting non-food items, he resales some and donates TONS of items that still are very usable to local shelters, kids advocacy groups etc.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Deadicated LM: A good way of putting it:)

    • Deadicated LM profile image

      Deadicated LM 4 years ago

      Freegans are numerous here in NYC where there is so much waste its' sickening. I guess if the stuff is packaged and just thrown out it's relatively safe; you'd be surprised what you'd do if you're hungry and have no money to buy food, although as you mentioned some people do it out of thrift not necessity. Good article, certainly food for thought ;-)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @savateuse: Nope, I still haven't. It's such a shame that food is thrown away. We are just drinking some orange juice that has passed its sell-by date and it's perfectly fine. We do all the time and we're still alive :) These dates are crazy.

    • savateuse profile image

      savateuse 4 years ago

      I hate to see food wasted, though I've never tried dumpster diving.

    • Ben Reed profile image

      Ben Reed 4 years ago from Redcar

      Its such a shame that good food ends up in this way. It really is time that we had a better way to distribute food like this.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @Scarlettohairy: I think I would if we had a supermarket nearby. (What a good excuse!)

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @ShariBerry: I've done that too :)

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 4 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Why not? I've never dumpster dove for food but have pulled plenty of other good stuff from them! ;o)

    • ShariBerry profile image

      Sharon Berry 4 years ago from Michigan

      It is a shame the way we waste perfectly good food but unless I was really desperate I don't think I could dumpster dive. I do love to find old furniture and decorative pieces to re-purpose.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @NC Shepherd: I'm just the same!

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 4 years ago

      Woops! 'farmers' markets'!!!

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @rattie lm: That's definitely the best way!

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      NC Shepherd 4 years ago

      It's a dreadful shame the amount of food that gets thrown away. I've always wanted to dumpster-dive, but I don't have the nerve to go alone.

    • rattie lm profile image

      rattie lm 4 years ago

      I rarely waste food. Nor do I shop in supermarkets. I cook from scratch, shop at faremres' markets, and try to plan ahead.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @mikes-cool-stuff: Thanks for visiting. That's how I was brought up too. My parents were teenagers during WW2 when food was rationed so they were very strict about waste when I was growing up.

    • mikes-cool-stuff profile image

      mikes-cool-stuff 4 years ago

      I try to never to waste food, it's the way i was brought up. Also thanks for liking one of my lenses.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @TransplantedSoul: Planning is certainly the key when buying food. And yes, we are very wasteful - the amount of packaging used these days is dreadful.We try to avoid packaged products as much as possible but we still end up with a full trash can - mostly packaging. At least most of it can be recylcled but it's still wasteful.

    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 4 years ago

      It is shameful that so much food does get thrown away when there are people who are badly in need ot it. Proper planning in a hoishold can go a log ways to helping to solve this. But overall, we are a wasteful society on many levels. We do need to pay more attention to this.

    • BritFlorida profile image
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      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      @RuralFloridaLiving: I love the idea of sharing. I used to live in a rural area of England and we used to do that a lot. What I'd really love is to grow vegetables and fruit but all I can manage is herbs in pots. We do raid the local mango trees though!

    • profile image

      RuralFloridaLiving 4 years ago

      I certainly don't fault anyone using good free food. I don't tend to throw food away, myself. I keep a bag in the freezer for leftovers that can into soup and one that can go into dogfood that I make for my dogs. Of course, I am rural, so we also have chickens that will eat up any fruit that's going bad. I also like the rural habit of sharing with your neighbors. Whenever we see each other, we tend to exchange fruit from our trees, veggies from the garden or goodness from the table. I hate to see food go to waste.