Freeganism: The Dumpster Divers Guide to Canning

For those who are particularly parsimonious, dumpster diving is paramount. In the rubbish heaps behind grocery stores and restaurants lay bountiful feasts fresh for the picking. Dumpster diving (also known as, skip diving, binning, and canning) is not only a good way to score free food, but it is also very “green” and environmentally friendly. It reduces aggregate waste and frees up space in municipal landfills. Dumpster diving can even become a sport. There are social communities who revel in the hunt, getting cheap thrills by constantly competing for the best finds.

Legally speaking, grocery stores are required by law to dispose of food that has outlived its shelf live. But those “sell-by” and “use-by” dates are merely a formality; a guarantee of freshness. Most items are perfectly fine for days or even weeks after the expiration date. Regarding restaurants, acceptable inventory is thrown out daily because it does not adhere to the companies’ quality control standards.

Before you begin your dumpster diving quests, make sure to research local legislation. In some cities and states it is completely legal to riffle through other people’s garbage. In others, you could be charged with trespassing, invasion of privacy, or even theft. Best practices suggest dumpster diving at night. This is not only when markets and restaurants dispose of unused/expired foodstuffs, but it is also when your activities can be conducted in relative secrecy. As is the case with any venture, metrics, benchmarks, and KPIs are crucial. Keep a mental or written log of the best times and locations to maximize your diving efforts.

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