Dumpster diving; 2009's fastest growing industry

by Michael Smith

Dumpster diving is more than likely going to be the fastest growing industry of 2009

There are many people out there that go dumpster diving on a regular basis and many get most of their food even that way, let alone other items for their homes and even their home offices.

Personally, I am one of those that also never can resist to peek into a skip, as we call dumpsters in Britain, just to see as to whether some useful item might lurk within.

There is one great inherent problem though with doing that and that is that you need the transport to cart it home and also you need a place for it at home.

There are thousands of people that regularly go through dumpsters in the United States, They call themselves freegans, or Dumpster divers. They rescue furniture, clothes, household goods and even food cast off by others as a way to exit what they see as out-of-control consumerism and corporate greed.

The Freegan movement is a total boycott of the economic system and its profit motive, and long may it continue, I hasten to add. However, at times I think that much of this is Utopian. Having said that though it would be nice if people would realize that many of their supposed and perceived “needs” are not needs at all but nothing but wants.

The mission, so to speak, of the Freegan and Dumpster Diving movement is that if you have a problem with the consumer culture in the our society then do all you can to stop participating in it. A good idea though how easy can it be implemented when in some countries it is actually a felony to dumpster dive?

It is amazing what can be found in dumpsters and thrown away into the trash in general. Those that have spent time with dumpster divers always comment on this again.

Many think that, when they fist have a go, that they will find a lot of gross items in the trash but most end up walking away totally amazed at how our society wastes things.

There is usable food in dumpsters – and much of that in dumpster of grocery stores, especially the big chains but taking from those is, for instance, a felony in Britain – that is still well in date and often only discarded because of damaged labels or dented cans and such like.

If one would go and look for instance on the daily and weekly street markets in Britain one would find the same thing. In this case it will be fresh fruit and vegetables that have fallen off the barrow or complete boxes that have a couple of rotten items in them. Again, however, it is technically illegal to take such thrown out stuff. Stupid, I know. But what can one do?

The Freegan movement in the USA has all kinds of people in it, not just the Hippie kind of old. There are business people, teachers, government workers, and many other professions represented there. It is definitely not just students. The groups ever diverse, middle age with careers, from all walks of life.

What they all have in common is a sincere desire to change the way we live.

Freegans want to separate themselves from what they see as an unethical consumer society. Reclaiming clothes, furniture - or even food - from the trash is just one way of reshaping society, at least so they say.

To put it another way, Freegans are the conscientious objectors of capitalism. The word “Freegan” is a combination of the words “free” - as in it’s free because it came from a Dumpster - and “vegan,” a vegetarian who shuns all animal products. However, not all Freegans escape capitalism entirely; some hold jobs, some own houses, some pay rent.

Some use tactics like Dumpster diving to send a public message that we as a society throw out things that are perfectly usable, while for some it is a way of life.

Food is food, clothes are clothes, furniture is furniture, no matter where it comes from, theoretically, though to me as a Romani, a Gypsy, it would matter, because of our cleanliness rules. But that is a different story.

Freeganism really isn’t anything new. It is an attempt to live in society and consume less and reuse more than most people do. It has been done before by others in other times and it is also the idea of creating an alternative community to one of consumerism and capitalism. But also one that is not, in most cases, communism.

It is not (just) dropping out of society. People are actually building something new, not just saying ‘We have a problem with this society.’ They’re creating a new economic system based on the value of mutual needs and cooperation instead of a system based on greed and waste.

When advocating such a way of life as that of Freegans or just a little of it by having a peek into trash cans once in a while to what can be reused and then doing so I am well aware that in the current economic climate there will be many, and especially amongst the powers that be, that will say that we cannot possibly do this (and it would not surprise me if suddenly they will make stricter laws as to what we can or cannot take from the trash) because it will harm the recovery.

And maybe to peek inside the trash once in a while to see what can be used again.

I must say that I make that a habit and I also know that some people look at me as if I am crazy when I do that. However, many a useful thing has been found that way and I will continue to do so. One drawback though with finding all those things that just might come in handy in the trash is that you have to have a barn to store everything in.

One important thing and fact to remember, though, is that dumpster diving, whether those big trash bins are called thus or skips, as hey are in Britain, is illegal in some countries and some situations.

While I well agree with the fact that such laws are silly and stupid it is, nevertheless, a fact that they exist and are thus and it is then up to the individual as to whether he or she wants to stay within the law or not.

In Britain, as an example, if food is thrown into the dumpsters of supermarkets the foods – unless cans where that will not apply – such as sandwiches, and such like, are being purposely contaminated with bleach in order to render them inedible to anyone wishing to salvage those.

This is being done, so the stores explain, so that people are turned off from taking the foods and cannot then later sue the stores in case they got ill from the foods salvaged and consumed. What a waste and stupidity, I know.

© M Smith (Veshengro), 2009