The Dangers of Dumpster Diving

January 12, 2010

Have you heard of the Freegan subculture?

Have you heard of the Freegan subculture? Freeganism is an anti-consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on "limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources". Common practices for Freegans are dumpster diving and guerilla farming; often times recovered waste from dumpster diving is used to fertilize these gardens. And while blogs and social networking sites are promoting the Freegan practice of dumpster diving not only for their own personal consumption, but also as a way to distribute recovered food to others in the community, what's not being discussed on these sites is the dangerous implications.

The Mother Nature Network posted the "dos and don'ts" of dumpster diving to help those treasure hunting for free food in supermarket retailers trash bins make the most of their dive. While this list included guidelines for what foods tend to be a safer bet than others, we at believe no matter how savvy a dumpster diver one is, this practice poses potential food safety risks that could be quite dangerous.

Food retailers are bound by a set of laws to discard food products that have reached a "sell by" date. To ensure compliance with laws and avoid liability, this means that food that has not reached it's "consume by" date is often times tossed in the dumpster. Several Freegan blogs talk about D'Agostino's, Trader Joe's and Whole Foods being favorite spots. In fact, the website provides a dumpster diving map for popular locations around the country.

No one can argue that large-scale food waste is crying for a solution, particularly in an economy where many families are in need. And many retailers across the country are working to reduce waste, recycle food scraps for compost, and make donations as the law allows. But dumpster diving is not the answer. What about perishable items? What about the rodents, birds, broken glass, and other things found in the dumpsters?

Food retailers need to take the lead to control the situation and to lock their dumpsters before it is too late.