Dive! Giveaway

The kind folks at First Run Features have given me three copies of the dumpster diving documentary Dive! to pass along to you fine readers. Lucky you!

I’m sure you’ll enjoy the film, as Dive! uses honesty and humor to illustrate the extent of retail food waste. We see director Jeremy Seifert and his freegan friends literally uncover just how much food supermarkets toss (especially Trader Joe’s).

To enter the drawing to win a DVD, leave a comment by Friday with your thoughts on dumpster diving. What do you make of the practice of taking food from supermarket or restaurant dumpsters as a way of exposing our everyday waste?

Enlightened? Gross? Practical? All Three? Other?

(I’ll announce winners early next week.)

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  1. Mimi
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    All three. I wish I had the nerve to dumpster dive myself. I hate any kind of waste – I’m old – and free food is very appealing, but my very limited experience with dumpsters is that it would be hard to climb into one and pretty scary to move around in one – who knows what’s under the top layer? Still… all that perfectly good food on its way to fill the landfill… If anyone wants someone to “hold the ladder” while they dumpster dive, I’m your man.

  2. Bellen
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    All Three !! I have no problem with dumpster diving whether food or other things. As for food as long as it’s not contaminated with spoiled stuff, is wrapped or within a peel,rind, etc, doesn’t have bulging ends or smells rotten it’s OK. I’ve gotten bananas, oranges, grapefruit, packages of peppers, mixed fruit and potatoes.

    Other stuff has been material, notebooks with ripped covers, magazines, books, complete newspapers, sheets, pillowcases, t-shirts, wood, hand tools, sewing kits. Material & clothing I wash immediately.

    Much of what I’ve dumpster dived for has been donated – especially clothes.

    Does curb side pick-up count? I’ve gotten cabinets for the garage, dressers, chairs, shelves, decorative items like wreaths, candles and candlesticks. Again, most I donate.

    I really don’t care about the stigma, I live my life the way I want to – as long as what I do is legal, doesn’t hurt anyone, and above all I leave it neater than I found it.

    And..I never pay full price for meat/fish/poultry – I buy the ‘reduced for quick sale’, take it home, repackage and freeze with never a problem. Same goes for bakery items – what little we buy is always the ‘reduced for quick sale’. Why waste??

  3. Whitney
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I’m honestly too much of a wuss to actually dumpster-dive, though I have no problem picking up stuff from the curb if I see something cool/useful. It was really big a few years ago on campus when I did my undergrad, and I’d probably dumpster dive with chums, but I never had the opportunity to go.

    The thing is re: food is that, for me, I don’t eat too much processed stuff (the big college thing was dumpstering Krispy Kreme donuts!) and I’m naive enough to think that grocery stores won’t toss produce unless it’s actually rotted in some way… so it’ll be interesting to check out this documentary, heh. My gut reaction though, is both “Gross” and “practical.” I mean, it does sort of squeek me out to grab something from a huge dumpster, but heck.. if it’s going to waste, then….

  4. Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    I’ve often been horrified by the amount of waste in the retail food industry. It seems so pointless when there are so many soup kitchens and food pantries that could utilized the excess before it winds up in the landfill rotting. At the very least I’ve also often wished that there were community composting projects that could take this to turn it into a usable product rather than landfill.

    I’d love to win a copy of this DVD so that I could show it in my community through the sustainability group that I belong to, Northwoods Green.

  5. Russell
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I think dumpster diving is wicked guilt-free fun. Hopping on bikes with some friends on a warm summer evening (or frozen winter night, why not) and making a tour of the finest dumpsters in search of eats, loading up some boxes of whatever is to be found, and then returning home to spread the harvest out on the kitchen table and stretch our minds as to what to cook up. Kale, strawberries, and parsnips = smoothies. Green mangoes, carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts = vermicelli wraps and some lacto-ferment pickles with the leftover cucumbers. And locavores needn’t fret too much, it was all going to landfill; although the local producer may be losing out in the short term, saved money can be used to buy expensive market food.

    Beyond the liberation and good times, it is certainly practical to an extent – depending on your location and dumpster supply. Being connected to some sort of dumpster community definitely helps make the jump to get out there, but would-be-dumpsterers, don’t worry. Check out the groups in your area and if you are still alone, just start peeking around or asking vendors to hook you up.

    I am an environmental science/studies student in Montreal and am just beginning my honours thesis on the topic of dumpster diving :) Jonathan, perhaps we can chat in future once I get the ball rolling a bit more. All I can say at this point is that I am glad I read the old New Yorkers my grandma gives me, which led me to this site. A valuable resource, for dumpster peri-anthropologists and otherwise.

    Happy dumpstering!

  6. Jennifer
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Practical, for sure! The food shouldn’t be wasted, so it makes complete sense to save it. I think it’s sad that the stigma around dumpster diving is perceived as greater than the shame of throwing away edible food. At the same time, as others have noted, I haven’t done it myself. Given the opportunity, though, I’d love to try it out! Anyone have suggestions for where to start or how to connect with others who do it?

  7. Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    I believe dumpster diving is a viable form of “shopping” just like purchases involving money, trade or other currency to obtain food. The injustice of relabeling food as waste for the sake of convenience and, ultimately, profit is sickening.

    My amazing dad was a chronic dumpster diver, surviving off the waste of others and his home garden and animals. He is inspirational to me in thinking outside of the box.

    When people find themselves in a fortunate position of having more than they need, then generosity should be the first inclination to look outside the walls of our homes and give to others.

    Dive! the Film rocks! I show it to as many people as I can when they come over. Awareness is the first step to transformation for good.

  8. Meredith Thomas
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I’m thrilled there are people out there willing to dive & therefore expose the waste. I think the practice is all three: enlightened, practical and probably gross too! I am sickened by all that goes to waste, yet our family economy depends upon what is discarded or sold secondhand & thus cheaply. As an organic gardener, I also see that what most consider “waste” is actually very valuable to the earth, soil & plants! I would love to win this film. We would project it outside and invite everyone we know.

  9. AP
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    As noted by other commenters, I’ve taken plenty of non-food items from sides of the road and dumpsters, but I haven’t yet ventured into food. I’m glad there are people that do it; otherwise, the only evidence of the grocery store waste stream the public would have would only be from employee whistleblowers.

  10. chris
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    given the way our society’s consumer product + waste flows are set up, dumpster diving is a crucial tactic — it reduces waste and reduces the amount that i need to be involved in consumption. but it’s not an act of resistance or subversion, since it depends on other people being wasteful. plus, if everyone started doing it, there’d be less for me! :-P

  11. Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    I work in the field of retail and part of my job is to travel to different stores throughout the week. One of the main areas I cover is downtown Seattle. I am in the bowels of many grocery stores and have seen my fair share of dumpster diving. Personally, I think it’s great for people to take what is considered trash in a technical sense and make immediate use of it by consumption. Not only does this would-be discarded food end up sustaining a human being’s life, but the impact on our strained landfills is lessened.

    I would like to note that some of the biggest chain stores I work at are aware of the food waste issue and take some measures to donate expired goods to local organizations. I often see carts and carts filled with expired food being set aside for donation. I can’t say how much of the overall food waste is donated, but it’s good to at least see some of it going to good use.

    Like many other social and environmental issues, money is the driving factor behind the problem of food waste. When I see a large pallet of food come into a store that I know has not sold it’s current stock, I cringe at the thought of perfectly good food being tossed. Let’s give food a chance to do its job!

  12. Elizabeth
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Honestly, I’d love to dumpster dive. I lived in NYC during college, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen perfectly good packaged foods being thrown away by the case because they were technically expired, or fruits and veggies plucked off of the displays by store employees, and plopped into a cardboard box that was put out with the trash, just because they didn’t look perfect enough.
    At that time, I was too wrapped up in the social stigma of picking those foods up and taking them with me, but now I think my priorities have shifted, and I’d go for it.

    I’ve never actively looked for anything in the trash, furniture or what have you, but if I ever again live in a place where dumpsters are common, I’d try! But not couches. Bedbugs are more expensive to deal with than a new couch in the first place…

  13. Posted August 10, 2011 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks so much for all of the fascinating comments thus far. What an interesting discussion!

    For those with further questions on dumpster diving or who are looking to connect with others, http://freegan.info/ is a good place to start.

  14. Melissa Brosowski
    Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

    I work at a food bank so daily I see some of the food that would have potentially ended up in a dumpster because a retail store didn’t believe the food was “perfect for sale”. There’s often nothing wrong with it, except a few pieces which are easy to sort out. However most retail stores don’t have the time, space or resources to sort through these products, which leaves them with a choice: they can donate the product to food banks or throw it out. Most stores do donate, but there are a few that are scared of the liabilities and don’t. And there are still a few stores that simply don’t know how to connect with an agency that save any potential food waste.
    I’ve never gone dumpster diving because the risks of it are kinda intimidating for me. But I do appreciate that other people take the time and energy to save all those foods that are still edible. Many people have no idea how much food is wasted, so I’d love a copy of this video to share with family, friends and everyone else I can get to sit down to watch it. (I can share what I see everyday and all the statistics I know about food bank use, but many people I know work during the day and therefore don’t get a chance to see my food bank in action to get any picture on what it means to be hungry.) No one worries about what happens to the wasted food when they have enough to eat everyday, but I think this video is a great way to get people thinking and talking more about food waste, poverty and hunger. I know a lot of people that are interested in learning but want something more than the sound of my voice. Please share a copy with me!

  15. Posted August 11, 2011 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Dumpster diving? The embarrassing habit of my mother has come full circle, and yes, I would dumpster dive if something tempting spoke to me.

    Katy Wolk-Stanley

  16. Lori Prentice
    Posted August 12, 2011 at 12:39 am | Permalink

    I tried to rescue food from school cafeterias and was totally taken back by the attitudes of those involved. They had their tails between their legs and spouted cases about how someone once sued over a package of crackers and now they aren’t allowed to let anything leave the cafeteria. I had an attorney see if there was any truth to successful cases against organizations donating food, and he couldn’t find anything. My heart just bled when children who were trying to take home something they didn’t eat from their own tray for a snack later, or possibly for another family member, were told to empty out their pockets of their own food. Food that is completely sealed but has been passed out to a child at school must be thrown away if not consumed at that lunch period. Absolutely boggles the mind when I think of what a little child, who is forced to throw out his food at the end of school lunch, thinks when he returns home to his baby sister who is at home with nothing to eat. So grateful to the dumpster divers who are willing to risk their reputations, their health (in the event they make a bad judgment call on food that shouldn’t be consumed), and their freedom. I am praying there is no cop heartless enough to arrest dumpster divers who are sacrificing to make a much needed statement and help feed hungry people.

  17. Myriam
    Posted August 17, 2011 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Dumpster Diving is tragicomedy. To see how much delicious nutritious food is tossed into the green bins of loss makes me sad, because it tells how 1) waste of precious resources is our cultural norm and 2) people tend to be disconnected from their bodies and the physical reality of their being. When we throw away edible food it indicates an awareness of cultural protocol over awareness of the real metabolic in’s and out’s of life.

    Then again! When I see tasty treats in garbage bins, part of me leaps for joy, literally, into the bin. While I am concerned for what this habitual waste says of our culture and handling of resources, I relish the opportunity to treasure hunt in a pile of “one man’s trash.” In the dark of night, with my headlamp shining, climbing and digging through grocery store dumpsters, I feel like a carrion bird. Or maybe even Robin Hood, if I’m in a romantic mood. I’ve found ripe red strawberries, avocados, shapely squash, bags of chips, blocks of cheese, cucumbers with one bruise, sealed boxes of cookies, crackers, boxed meals…you name it. The processed stuff will either be dented or past the “sell by” date…fine with me. The produce is simply imperfect, and usually needs one small spot cut out.

    Walking around cities, I find myself compulsively checking trash cans. Pizza boxes with fresh slices are a frequent find. Does this gross you out? It’s ok with me. It’s tragicomedy.

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