Our culture today of disposable goods, wanton food wastage and intolerance for repairs is spawning a new generation of unlikely entrepreneurs and environmental evangelists.
Known as dumpster divers, this is a community of people who literally rifle through rubbish to dig up an abundance of food, clothing, electrical items and other unwanted goods. They are the people finding the treasure in your trash and often making a fortune from your unwanted goods and food.
They can rake in thousands a year just from people’s unwanted goods and selling them on. Items even include vacuum cleaners, power tools, furniture, carpeting, industrial machinery and other electronics.
If you think it’s a bunch of homeless people or freeloaders scabbing through bins for a free meal then think again. Many dumpster divers have jobs and do it for the extra cash or simply to save some money and waste.
Related to the dumpster divers are the freegans in Australia. The word freegan is a combination of “free” – as in it’s free because you found it in a dumpster – and “vegan,” a vegetarian who abstains from all animal products. Not all freegans are strict vegetarians, however. Some would rather eat found meat, dairy and eggs than let food go to waste.
Freegans are dumpster divers who rescue furniture, clothes, household items and even food cast off by others. They aren't homeless; in fact, most could easily afford to buy their own food and furniture. They’ve instead chosen to live what they believe is an ethical, unadulterated lifestyle and disassociate themselves from capitalism and consumerism.
This group of people say they not only save on groceries and other products but reduce landfill waste as well. According to figures obtained by lobby group Do Something! Australians discard four million tons of food annually worth around $8 billion.
While steering clear of food which is obviously off or inedible, people salvage whole cases of beer, bread, fruit and vegetables and meat which is still OK to eat.
In places like Sydney there’s even a dedicated community group set up to share tips, stories and experiences. Dish & Dirt, a blog for Sydney’s dumpster divers, reveal how dumpster diving is viewed as an effective urban foraging technique, founded by freegans all over the world who believe the world’s current wastage is unnecessary.
According to them, Australians throw away up to 20 per cent of all the food they purchase, a huge waste in anyone’s book, which equates to more than a $1000 for each household in an average year.
While dumpster diving on private property is technically illegal, they often get around it by either going late at night or even having a word with security guards, if any are around, and letting them know they are just trying to reduce waste.
Many freegans extend their beliefs beyond the food they eat. In addition to dumpster diving, some freegans squat on abandoned property or grow gardens on empty lots. Some choose not to hold jobs and instead volunteer or teach repair workshops for other freegans.