by Comrade Black
Dumpster diving can be a blast, and a great way to get healthy food for many of us who were not born into class privilege. I don’t dumpster dive as much as I use to, but I have been doing it off and on since I first lived in a squat on the streets of edmonton, in 1996 at the age of 16.
I also have many friends and roommates who do the dive, and as awesome as it can be I have notice a few common trends and I feel like some folks might benefit from a little basic advice.
In Grime We Crust?
1) While there is many treasures to be found in the garbage, not everything in the bins is treasure. Often things belong in the garbage, sometimes way before they were ever thrown out. Products like Sunny D, or “Orange Beverage” which is sold for $1.00 when new, and tastes like watered down flat orange pop, belong in the garbage. Just because it is in the bin, doesn’t mean you need to take it out.
2) Leave some for other folks, you don’t need to take every scrap of edible materials from the bin. I know some approach dumpstering like it is their social mission to stop every scrap they can from hitting the landfill, but you gotta remember others might also be benefiting from that same store tossing their lunch. If you take everything, you might be taking food away from people who need it just as badly, or worse than you. If you insist on taking everything, consider going later, like 3am, after everyone else has come and gone, so that you are taking the leftovers rather than preempting others bin din.
3) Consider your social position here; if you have access to a kitchen, stove, oven, fridge and freezer – take stuff like produce which requires cooking and storing – and consider leaving products (like donuts, bagels, or pre-made meals in a package) that can be easily consumed without cooking for those who live on the streets and don’t have access to amenities.
4) Just because meat is in a dumpster doesn’t mean you have to put it in your body. Often I have seen formerly vegan or vegetarian kids start eating meat when they start binning, and rationalize it by claiming it would be disrespectful to the animal not to eat it… wait, did they actually just say it would be disrespectful not to eat an animal…? Yup that logical lunacy is a staple in the rhetoric of the ex-vegan ex. If you really respect animals, perhaps consider not viewing them as products to be consumed. Or better yet, join or start an group dedicated to animal liberation – above ground or clandestine – and take actual action to help living animals, or perhaps volunteer at the local rescues, sanctuaries, or adopt one from the shelters. There is so much work needed to be done and frying bacon out of a dumpster isn’t saving any animals, or your health, so quit making excuses. If you need to rationalize something, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.
It’s also just gross, all ethics aside. If you are consuming the flesh of animals from the dumpster, you are consuming torture. If you put torture in your body, don’t expect to get good health out. Never mind all the hormones, chemicals, and other crap. The flesh of domesticated animals from factory farms is simply toxic on so many levels. It always shocks me how people will get riled up about monsanto fucking with our food crops, or will refuse to eat soy because it is GMO, yet will fork flesh and puss (cheese) into their mouth 3 times per day.
4) Be picky. Dumpster diving is not a starvation economy, it is a fucking horn of pleanty. You can pick and choose and still bring home boxes of food most middle class yuppies couldn’t afford. So don’t eat shit, and don’t say thank you for the privilege. Take the good stuff and be healthy. Leave the garbage in the garbage.
Don’t put garbage in your body
The Dumpster Mafia – Organized Grime!
Simply eating garbage is by no means a revolutionary act, otherwise every seagull is a full fledged anarchist warrior leading the revolutionary vanguard! That doesn’t mean that dumpstering can’t be a ‘part’ of our anarchist practice. A few years back I had a roommate who really did try to make dumpster diving a revolutionary concept by applying ideashe learned from anarchist community organizing. He moved dumpstering from being just a lifestyle choice to actually using it to build community, organize, and increase food sovereignty.
He founded a group he named The Dumpster Mafia, it was organized similar to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm, and was by far the most organized and concerted dumpster diving I have witnessed or been part of. It involved a small team of volunteers, and anyone who either donated their time or a small amount of cash to cover costs, got a box of goodies hand delivered to their house every week.
The basic structure worked like this: he got a car given to him, a junker, which they would use to hit up the dumpsters, this way they could bring way more home in one trip, and could hit harder to get to bins out of bicycle range. In our backyard he set up a couple tents which he managed to get donated somehow, as well as a large chest deep freeze he got free off Craigslist. Beside the deep freeze, under the tents he had a series of good quality plastic bins, which he would use as refrigerators by filling plastic bottles with water to freeze them, creating diy ice packs, which were placed with food in the plastic bins under the tent (thus out of the sunlight). Food that needed to be frozen went in the deep freeze, produce and almond milk went in the bis, packaged goods like cereal just went in the house.
One group of volunteers would go dumpster each night of the week, using the car, and usually in pairs. They would go late so as to not take food away from anyone. They would process the entire bin, by taking out every garbage bag and piling them beside the bin, then systemically going through them one at a time taking out whatever food they could get which was worth bringing home, and finally placing the lightened bag back in the bin. Usually they managed to fill a car about 1/2 way by using this technique. They also would make sure to always leave the area cleaner than when they got there so as to not burn out their dumster supply by pissing off the stores.
The next team of volunteers would arrive in the morning, take the boxes of dumpster goods and process them: go through fruits and veggies that came in packages looking for bad ones to toss, or sometimes cutting off bad spots from fruit that could be eaten if frozen. Then they would place the food in the bins or freezer for the next group. The third group came by once per week, and would sort the scores into boxes to be distributed. Making sure to split food as evenly as possible. Finally volunteers would fill the car and make the deliveries to everyone who had contributed. Any money donated went to cover gas and insurance, although with 100% volunteer labor, very little money was ever needed, and the average volunteer only did about 2 hrs per week. It was a smooth operation for sure. And leftovers were delivered to a few local single moms down the block whenever possible, as well as to the local chapter of Food Not Bombs.
That entire year I barely bought food at all, and yet I ate fruit smoothies, stir fries, veggie bakes, and tofu scramble every day. It turned out to be a great way to build community, to get people working together, organizing, and it saved us all a ton of money. Plus we all were so healthy!
and remember, it’s even better when you do it with friends!