Dumpster diving - yes or no?
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?
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?