Today we went dumpster diving at our local market. What is dumpster diving? Exactly that. It gets its name from people who dive into dumpsters to rescue perfectly edible food or products that are in good condition and don’t deserve to head to the landfill to add to our pollution on earth. You may think only poor students and homeless people do it, but a lot of people do it for environmental reasons.
Perfectly fine capsicum rescued from the dumpster and turned into two meals for my family
When I say “dumpster” you might think of your household rubbish bins and feel rummaging for food in it is digusting, but you have to realise that rubbish on a commercial level isn’t quite the same. We’re talking bags of unsold pastries at the end of the day, boxes of fruits and veggies that may be just slightly bruised or wilting, packaged food that are approaching its “best before” date, brand new clothes that are thrown out because the new season’s stock has come in…A lot of the time there is no actual diving into a dirty dumpster.
The amount of waste businesses in first world countries produce from items which are still edible or functional is astounding. I think a lot of us like to think that businesses, restaurants, cafes, bakeries and supermarkets are donating unwanted food or goods to charities and people in need, but the reality is that their priority is making money and it’s always easier just to chuck things in the bin. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some businesses who donate to the unfortunate and charities who collect food waste to make meals, but overall there is still a ridiculous amount of unnecessary waste going on.
Miss 1.5 not actually diving into a rubbish bin to rescue fruit
In our case, we headed to our local market around the time it was closing. Here they have green “organic waste” wheelie bins where only vegetables and fruits are thrown into so it’s not mixed with actual rubbish. A lot of vendors also leave unsold produce in boxes for the people they know will take it. In the photo above, the vendors were literally still selling this exact fruit to customers just two minutes ago before deciding to call it a day. There was also a whole bin filled with slightly bruised and ugly cucumbers that were individually wrapped and sealed in plastic so it wasn’t like they were getting contaminated or anything.
Now, I have to say I am not the perfect environmentalist at all. In fact, I’m pretty far from it, but I am lucky to have close friends who are passionate about being green. They motivate me to keep trying, even if my efforts are feeble and terribly inconsistent. To be honest, you have to have balls and thick skin to do this dumpster diving thing…I mean, you’re rummaging through green bins throughout the market, hovering like vultures, eyeing what vendors are about to chuck out, people passing by can see you…and yes, most of the food will be slightly imperfect and you have to kind of get over the fact that not all fruit and vegetables are meant to look beautiful and glossy like in an overpriced grocery store.
In Victoria, dumpster diving is not illegal as long as you’re not trespassing, but to self-conscious me it still felt slightly criminal. My extroverted husband though did not feel the slightest bit of embarassment, so it really depends on your personality and how you view the world I guess! I love the environment, but I’m not sure I could do this all the time. Maybe I could just ask my friends who do this to pass me on some of the stuff they find if they have too much on their hands. It’s really tough to do it with kids anyway as sometimes you have to slowly rummage through things. I think you have to be the kind of person who enjoys looking for a bargain…I’m certainly not that kind of person! At closing time, there are also forklifts everywhere cleaning up and it was so dangerous for the kids to be walking around. Miss 4.5 is quite the princess too and refused to get down from the pram and kept saying she wasn’t going to eat any of this stuff (well, she doesn’t cook the meals!).
Regular dumpster diving may not be for you (or me at the moment), but it’s worth doing it at least once to see just how much food and goods are being wasted in developed cities. To people who are passionate about saving the environment, it can actually be quite distressing. In 2018, one of my resolutions will definitely be to live a greener life. To start composting again, make more vegetarian meals, and make more of an effort to reduce my household waste. I can only try!
The 30-Day Personal Blog Challenge is a challenge to myself to consistently blog about my daily life (like the good ‘ol student days) for 30 days.