Monday, December 6, 2010

People Live From Dumpster Finds

From the Grand Views. I'm one of them, and so are the people who eventually bought my donated items.

"Americans throw away 25 million tons of refuse every year, putting it either in the trash can or recycling bin. Not all trash is useless. Some people, like Searles, protest this excess by living off it - everything from the furniture they sit on to the food they eat."


"Searles said more than half of what they own came from a dumpster, but she said they mostly look for food. They're not looking for a half-eaten hamburger thrown out from a fast food joint. They get their groceries from the same stores as everyone else, but they get theirs from the dumpster. "A lot of times they throw away quantities - packaged quantities - of food," Searles said. "Say there's a bag of oranges and one orange will be moldy in the entire bag, so you just throw out the moldy one and you're good."


""Getting into food politics coincided with meeting people who already dumpster dove," Searles said. "They showed me how to dumpster dive, where good places were and how to judge what is good food in the trash." Searles said getting meat can be dangerous. She usually only gets it in the dead of winter, but getting produce is like shopping in the store. "You don't want stuff that's smashed. You don't want stuff that's laying on the bottom of the dumpster," Searles said. "Other than that, if it looks like food, it's food."


"They wouldn't name their favorite spots to dumpster dive. They said they don't want the businesses to lock the dumpsters, but their favorites are smaller grocery stores and bakeries that don't have trash compactors. Lewis said the couple forages enough food that they spend around $15 a month on groceries. Most of that, he said, is spent on oils and seasonings to cook the food they find. Lewis said some people refuse to dumpster dive for food, but will explore dumpsters at bookstores or thrift stores. He said that a few years ago a friend found a working seven-disc DVD player after Drake students moved out for the summer. Some people even take furniture from the dumpster and refinish it and sell it, he said.
Searles said, "If they make it, you can find it in the trash."


"The biggest problem would come if you make a mess. But if you're smart, you wouldn't," Lewis said. Searles said they follow a dumpster-diving etiquette, which involves leaving the area cleaner than they found it and not taking more than they can use. Searles looked around her living room and pointed out a Hawaiian flower picture on the wall, the light bulb in the lamp, some toys on the mantle and a blue plasma lightning lamp. She said all the items came from a dumpster."

She sounds like she's been to my old apartment complex's dumpster. I look around my own living room, and only the couch is new--the rest is either hand-me-downs, curbside finds, stuff in the apartment complex dumpster or laundry room trash can, stuff given to me, stuff I bought used, or stuff I found up in the attic when we bought the house.

Other dumpster-diving articles: Dumpster Dive With Panache, Dumpster Divers--The Gourmands of Garbage, Holiday Dinner From the Dumpster.


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