What inspired you to try dumpster diving?
For some people, dumpster diving is an incredibly social thing. I heard about it through friends, they would spin stories of their ventures and, naturally, one becomes intrigued. I was invited along to some bins in Surry Hills and we pulled out onions, celery and flowers. That night we had the heartiest soup and several bouquets about the house. Dumpster diving is exciting, fun and immensely rewarding. However, what was initially just a series of adventures became a motivated ritual. Dumpster diving reveals the incredibly flawed system of food distribution and while this loophole exists for divers to put use to the vast quantity of usable and fresh (yes fresh!) food – I hope we’ll get to a point where they’ll be a more intelligent distribution of food and a more sustainable culture of consumption.
How do you avoid problems such as trespass and private property while dumpster diving?
When dumpster diving, the legality of things can certainly get blurry. Reclaiming food from bins is not illegal, but of course there can be times when you quite clearly trespass. Setting up your own set of rules can give you something to work on. I go by a few rules that I’ve picked up from people around me. When dumpster diving, that’s all your doing, don’t go for anything else, don’t be destructive, leave the place clean, pick a lock (don’t bust it) and be discreet (the last one helps the most). I’ve never gotten into legal problems, nor do I think the risk of being nabbed by police is an issue. Dumpster divers aren’t criminalized in my experience. When I meet an employer of the supermarket, I find it important to stay calm, confident and cordial – I’ve only ever been asked to move on twice. In fact you’ll be surprised how indifferent or sympathetic some of the crew are.
How do you determine what’s good food? Are you concerned about eating meat or infected food?
Dumpster diving can be a lot of fun, but it’s also hard work some times. Being discerning, digging around for the right stuff, becoming familiar with chuck out times (so you get the food before it’s been sitting around for long) is important. Dumpster divers definitely establish ‘relationships’ with some bins, some are just constantly yielding good food. I, for one, go to one bin in particular (a lot) where I get meat products that are still hot from the oven (and delicious). The trust I have in this bin is fairly high, it would take me a lot of convincing to try meat from other bins. As for coming across infected food, I’ve never really experienced this, nor am I sure what that might entail. Scanning food and giving it a big wash when you get home usually does the trick!
Have you got dumpsters that you particularly like diving in? What is it about that dumpster?
As I mentioned, I have a favourite bin where I trust the food is good, it’s reliable and I love the food I get from it too. But the biggest attraction to this bin is the attitude of the staff at the shopfront. They’re supportive, welcoming and position foods in separate bin bags for easy access. To me, this shows that the people who make and sell the food, care enough about it for the left overs to be properly used and appreciated. Quite a contrast to the larger supermarket enterprises!
What means do you currently use to communicate with other divers about checking up on laws, dumpster etc?
When talking about the legalities with other divers, it rarely goes beyond talking about which bin locations have more aggressive staff and big fences. But as for new digs, it mainly rests on word of mouth news and going out for a dumpster date. I know some divers are protective of their bins and what the best times are. There are also dumpster wikis and forums where people can make call outs and find people to meet up with. I haven’t used this service, but I know several people who do something like this with people who are travelling through or new to the city.
What do I say to people who think it’s a dirty past time, unhygienic, illegal etc?
To be honest, if I find some one really disapproves of my diving habits, I usually laugh it off and move the topic along. Diving doesn’t suit everyone’s taste, and I’m resigned to that. But when people genuinely are curious, I definitely let spill how rewarding diving is. As a student, it has helped me get by in an expensive city, it has diverted a lot of waste, it isn’t at all unhygienic, it’s social, fun and you work more for your food rather than passively consuming it – these are all points I’m only touching upon but when you unpack them properly, just one would suffice enough to consider turning to the bins for!