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Combatting waste by dumpster diving, a hobby that saves food

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by: Hans van der Broek
combatting waste by dumpster diving  a hobby that saves food

Dumpster diving. The term alone is guaranteed to put a smile on your face - whether it is one of actual enjoyment or disbelief, I am not sure. Yet this phenomenon, where people sometimes quite literally ‘dive’ in the dumpsters in their neighborhood to hunt for thrown-away treasures, is seeing an uptake after some of its most famous proponents recently made headlines again.

From food to clothes and from electronics to toys

With the loot varying from hundreds of left-over desserts to household equipment and sometimes even cash money, it is not hard to see why some have turned this somewhat peculiar hobby into a way of life. A fact is that we, as the collective world population, are throwing away too many perfectly good things. From food to clothes and from electronics to toys: consumerism has taken a turn for the worse, now that we discard items once we are ‘done’ with them, rather than after they have been used fully.

Take the issue of food waste. Every year, an average one-third of the food that is produced in the world for the purpose of human consumption is wasted. Simply thrown away. I don’t want to risk sounding too patronizing, but the old mom-trick is painfully relevant here: "You should eat your dinner, poor children in Africa would kill for it."

And while it is a cliche of the worst kind, it unfortunately rings true. While some of us are having the luxury of discarding perfectly good food items, others are starving. The world’s wealth has always been distributed unequally - but so has the food supply. The billions and billions worth of food thrown out in the western world, simply because it is a day past the expiration date, is inexcusable.

Coming back to dumpster diving. A lot of people are claiming that they are doing it as a way of showing their outrage with consumerism and waste. Others just say that it is fun and addictive. There’s this Dutch guy, Theo Vreugdenhill, who claims that he merely tries to "save perfectly good food from the trash". As he says, “I simply cannot stand by idly if good food is thrown away, only because there is a tiny dent in it, happens to be slightly damaged, or is nearing its expiration date. Especially when I look around and see how many people are struggling to get by."

Theo Vreugdenhill with headlamp and his wife
Theo Vreugdenhill and his wife after their 'dumbesterdive'

He is not doing it for himself, quite the contrary. He is a preacher in a local church and takes two full crates with him to service on Sunday, for those who are unable to provide in their own needs. The products that he finds? Quite diverse, actually: from cheese to beer, butter, yoghurt, fruit drinks, feta cheese, salads and fruit. Although he has also come across perfectly good vacuum cleaners and laptops in the past, which just goes to show how careless we are in what we throw away.

Not everything can be found in the dumpster: most divers will agree that it are mostly perishable items, such as vegetables, fruit and bread. So you probably should not quite be ready to give up the day job and spent your days as a full-time dumpster diver: products like rice, peanut butter, soda, dish soap and detergent are pretty hard to come by.

Would you still want to try and find your inner dumpster diver and fill your fridge with leftovers? Then you can quite literally take the dive and plunge in the bins headfirst, although you could also try to talk to some shop owners yourself. Especially if your good cause stretches beyond feeding your immediate family, they might be very willing to hold on to that day’s excess for you and hand it to you in a bag instead of making you scour for it.

Some other hints, as shared by experienced dumpster divers:

  • Do not wear your Sunday’s best for the diving part - while it is not nearly as gross as many people suspect, it is not something that you want to do in your favourite shirt and jeans either.
  • Only go dumpster diving at night, preferably after the shops are closed. This way, you avoid awkward situations with shoppers walking out of the store while you are digging around in the trash.
  • Do not climb any fences or force open gates. Trespassing is not appreciated nor legal, so stay off private property. Stick to the curb-side.
  • Always clean up after yourself. Leaving behind a mess of torn apart bags and scattered trash is bad taste and will most likely set some bad blood. Be a good neighbour and make sure that the people whose trash you are raiding do not mind.
  • Be open about what it is that you are doing: you might get some funny looks from passerbys, who might even think of you as some homeless person. Talk to people who spotted you and explain what you are doing and what you have found.
  • Very practical: use a headlight, so that you can freely use your hands while digging; and make sure to bring plenty of bags and boxes and, preferably, a way of transporting your newfound treasures.

Apps which makes you saving food

Not quite ready to go out and dig in your community’s trash bins yet? Then you can do other things to cut back on your food waste. In order to actively encourage you to do so, you will be happy to find that there are quite a few apps that remind you to do so and give helpful hints. One of those apps is Too Good To Go, specifically designed for bargain hunters: businesses can post their leftovers in the app at steep discounts (adding up to at least 50-75%), after which shoppers can come in to collect the relatively fresh food at a great prize.

Another popular app is Olio, which allows you to share food with your local community. Handy if you are going on holiday, for instance. Your leftover food can be listed, along with a preferred pick-up point and pick-up time, and people in your community will be able to take it off your hands.

Unsung kind of does the same as Olio, except that it works with volunteers, in a charitable set-up. After posting your ‘offer’, one of the Unsung volunteers will come pick it up and deliver it to a local food bank or homeless shelter. Basically, the volunteers are the delivery guys who pick up your food and drop it off with people who need it the most.

Finally, Eat Me prevents your food from going bad: it creates a timer for all the food that you have in your fridge. Scan the food as you put it in the fridge, after which it will alert you if it is about to go bad. A fun fact: this app was actually the idea of two teenage girls, who are still involved in the company.

Look, I don’t care if you are digging through trashcans or donating your leftovers through one of the apps listed above. The essence remains the same: avoiding a situation where you have to throw away food while someone else in your community might be going hungry. And that is definitely something worth fighting - or dumpster diving - for.

https://www.whatsorb.com/category/food

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World traveler, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Has countless ideas and set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Has an opinion about everything and unlimited thoughts about a better world. He likes hiking and climbed numerous 5.000 m.
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World traveler, entrepreneur and environmental activist. Has countless ideas and set up several businesses in the Netherlands and abroad. Has an opinion about everything and unlimited thoughts about a better world. He likes hiking and climbed numerous 5.000 m.
Updates on environmental sustainability, every month in your mailbox!
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Get updates on environmental sustainability in your mailbox every month.

Combatting waste by dumpster diving, a hobby that saves food

Dumpster diving. The term alone is guaranteed to put a smile on your face - whether it is one of actual enjoyment or disbelief, I am not sure. Yet this phenomenon, where people sometimes quite literally ‘dive’ in the dumpsters in their neighborhood to hunt for thrown-away treasures, is seeing an uptake after some of its most famous proponents recently made headlines again. From food to  clothes and from electronics to toys With the loot varying from hundreds of left-over desserts to household equipment and sometimes even cash money, it is not hard to see why some have turned this somewhat peculiar hobby into a way of life. A fact is that we, as the collective world population, are throwing away too many perfectly good things. From food to clothes and from electronics to toys: consumerism has taken a turn for the worse, now that we discard items once we are ‘done’ with them, rather than after they have been used fully. Take the issue of food waste. Every year, an average one-third of the food that is produced in the world for the purpose of human consumption is wasted. Simply thrown away. I don’t want to risk sounding too patronizing, but the old mom-trick is painfully relevant here: "You should eat your dinner, poor children in Africa would kill for it." And while it is a cliche of the worst kind, it unfortunately rings true. While some of us are having the luxury of discarding perfectly good food items, others are starving. The world’s wealth has always been distributed unequally - but so has the food supply. The billions and billions worth of food thrown out in the western world, simply because it is a day past the expiration date, is inexcusable. Coming back to dumpster diving. A lot of people are claiming that they are doing it as a way of showing their outrage with consumerism and waste. Others just say that it is fun and addictive. There’s this Dutch guy, Theo Vreugdenhill, who claims that he merely tries to " save perfectly  good food from the trash". As he says, “I simply cannot stand by idly if good food is thrown away, only because there is a tiny dent in it, happens to be slightly damaged, or is nearing its expiration date. Especially when I look around and see how many people are struggling to get by." Theo Vreugdenhill and his wife after their 'dumbesterdive' He is not doing it for himself, quite the contrary. He is a preacher in a local church and takes two full crates with him to service on Sunday, for those who are unable to provide in their own needs. The products that he finds? Quite diverse, actually: from cheese to beer, butter, yoghurt, fruit drinks, feta cheese, salads and fruit. Although he has also come across perfectly good vacuum cleaners and laptops in the past, which just goes to show how careless we are in what we throw away. Not everything can be found in the dumpster: most divers will agree that it are mostly perishable items, such as vegetables, fruit and bread. So you probably should not quite be ready to give up the day job and spent your days as a full-time dumpster diver: products like rice, peanut butter, soda, dish soap and detergent are pretty hard to come by. Would you still want to try and find your inner dumpster diver and fill your fridge with leftovers? Then you can quite literally take the dive and plunge in the bins headfirst, although you could also try to talk to some shop owners yourself. Especially if your good cause stretches beyond feeding your immediate family, they might be very willing to hold on to that day’s excess for you and hand it to you in a bag instead of making you scour for it. Some other hints, as shared by experienced dumpster divers: Do not wear your Sunday’s best for the diving part - while it is not nearly as gross as many people suspect, it is not something that you want to do in your favourite shirt and jeans either. Only go dumpster diving at night, preferably after the shops are closed. This way, you avoid awkward situations with shoppers walking out of the store while you are digging around in the trash. Do not climb any fences or force open gates. Trespassing is not appreciated nor legal, so stay off private property. Stick to the curb-side. Always clean up after yourself. Leaving behind a mess of torn apart bags and scattered trash is bad taste and will most likely set some bad blood. Be a good neighbour and make sure that the people whose trash you are raiding do not mind. Be open about what it is that you are doing: you might get some funny looks from passerbys, who might even think of you as some homeless person. Talk to people who spotted you and explain what you are doing and what you have found. Very practical: use a headlight, so that you can freely use your hands while digging; and make sure to bring plenty of bags and boxes and, preferably, a way of transporting your newfound treasures. Apps which makes you  saving food Not quite ready to go out and dig in your community’s trash bins yet? Then you can do other things to cut back on your food waste. In order to actively encourage you to do so, you will be happy to find that there are quite a few apps that remind you to do so and give helpful hints. One of those apps is Too Good To Go , specifically designed for bargain hunters: businesses can post their leftovers in the app at steep discounts (adding up to at least 50-75%), after which shoppers can come in to collect the relatively fresh food at a great prize. Another popular app is Olio , which allows you to share food with your local community. Handy if you are going on holiday, for instance. Your leftover food can be listed, along with a preferred pick-up point and pick-up time, and people in your community will be able to take it off your hands. Unsung kind of does the same as Olio, except that it works with volunteers, in a charitable set-up. After posting your ‘offer’, one of the Unsung volunteers will come pick it up and deliver it to a local food bank or homeless shelter. Basically, the volunteers are the delivery guys who pick up your food and drop it off with people who need it the most. Finally, Eat Me prevents your food from going bad: it creates a timer for all the food that you have in your fridge. Scan the food as you put it in the fridge, after which it will alert you if it is about to go bad. A fun fact: this app was actually the idea of two teenage girls, who are still involved in the company. Look, I don’t care if you are digging through trashcans or donating your leftovers through one of the apps listed above. The essence remains the same: avoiding a situation where you have to throw away food while someone else in your community might be going hungry. And that is definitely something worth fighting - or dumpster diving - for. https://www.whatsorb.com/category/food