Dumpster Diving – Written by Philipp Mitterhofer

I’m Philipp and I study Geography at the University of Copenhagen. In my studies and in my personal life I am very interested in sustainability. What interests me the most is the complexity of the many issues we face today. Food waste is one of these issues where many factors play a role and that is hard to tackle. Along the whole value chain of food production, waste is produced: the farmers have to comply with rigorous standards, supermarkets and wholesale throw out huge amounts of food as well as restaurants, catering firms and private households. It is a huge issue.

I have recently started to dumpster-dive, which means that I get on my bike at night, drive to nearby supermarkets and go through their trash looking for edible food. There are several reasons why I do it.

I started dumpster-diving because of the sense of adventure; it feels like going on a treasure hunt. Dumpster-diving is a legal grey area, it’s not illegal but it is frowned upon, this adds to the feeling of adventure and makes the whole thing even more fun. As time progressed I realized just how much perfectly fine food one can find and how much money one can safe. I find most of the stuff I need doing this and dumpster diving has almost become an obsession of mine. I hate doing grocery shopping as much as I love going dumpster-diving.

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Why is so much food wasted?
When we talk about dumpster diving we need to talk about food waste and if we talk about that we also need to look at packaging. Most things that are thrown out are 90% perfect: the package of grapes with one or two gone bad, the pack of 12 peaches with one that’s mouldy, or the salad where the outer leaves are a little brown. The list goes on but what most things have in common is that the only reason they are thrown in the trash is that everything is nicely packed so you buy more at once.

Once I start going dumpster-diving I realized that there is something really wrong in how the system works. In Denmark, where I currently live, every year 167.000 tons of foods are thrown out by supermarkets and wholesale. This is only a part of the bigger problem of food waste but this is where decided to take action. Dumpster diving won’t solve the problem of food waste. Much more political action is needed, your action is needed! Consumers have the choice to actively buy stuff that may look a little less appealing in order to save it from being wasted. Ask your supermarkets how they address the issue. Do you get a discount on products close to their expiration date? Asking about these things can be a first step towards less food waste!

For me dumpster-diving is a small act of rebellion against the system, my try to make a small dent in the mountain of food waste.
Join the movement ! Find an open dumpster in your town and jump in!

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