Dumpster diving, also knows as 'Freeganism', has long been a form of salvaging waste and a silent act of rebellion against the global issue of food waste. With Australians throwing out $8-10 billion dollars worth of food per year, there's no shortage of food to be found.
Dumpster divers or 'freegans' are a community of people who forage through unwanted food, mainly in commercial bins of large supermarkets, saving up to thousands on groceries a year and reducing landfill while they're at it. Some are even making money by selling their more valuable finds. Genius.
This week Sydney diver Alanna Underwood spoke to me about her diving tips, social stigmas and why she keeps doing it.
How do you know where to find food?
I mostly dumpster dive at large supermarkets because there is a high turnover of food, especially due to the growing popularity of package wrapped vegetables with expiry dates. I also recommend bakeries too - you would be surprised at the amount of bread that is thrown away.
How much money do you think you’re saving each time you do it?
Easily $50-$100 and that is just on fruits and vegetables. When we get dumpster specialty bread it would be around the $250 mark.
What’s the best thing you’ve found?
One time I went dumpster diving and found the main items that I had written on my shopping list. They were soy milk, lentils, macadamia oil and nappies (the nappies were even in my sons size!)
Has there ever been a dive you’ve regretted?
No, I've never regretted a dive. No regrets just sometimes not a successful dive.
What are the reasons for people leaving the lifestyle, that you know of?
I think if people 'leave' the lifestyle it could be simply that they are busy/lazy/or in a higher income bracket than before, therefore not at all motivated to dive.
Do you think there's a stigma attached to dumpster diving?
I think so but it's because people might imagine it to be more disgusting than it actually is. When you dumpster dive at big supermarkets they have specific green waste bins which only have fruit and vegetables in it - sure it can get smelly but that's what gloves are for! Also I guess you have to be driven to do it and maybe be a little bit of an anarchist - it's not for everybody but it could be.
Is it a sustainable way of ‘shopping’ on a regular basis?
Sure. We are not purists though - we also buy food, especially now that winter is setting in and it's cold and dark at the bins. We are vegetarian and aim to shop for food with minimal packaging when we can. We also are members of a food co-op which we buy dried goods from.
Has it gained in popularity over the years and if so, why?
It's hard for me to say, I've always known people in my city who dumpster dive. It's definitely more popular in some social circles than others.
What’s the main reason why you keep diving?
I dive because I love free food and also because it's an unharmful act of rebellion against large corporations which do not care enough about waste. I also enjoy the process of going out and getting a haul, it's like a treasure hunt.