What you need to know to dumpster dive in the Twin Cities

Categories: Weird Food

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Wilder Burnham navigates a dumpster
When I was in my early teens, being punk and loving trash went hand in hand. Dumpsters cut out the middle man, providing my friends and me with all the snacks and random trinkets we desired -- without us ever having to enter a store. At punk shows and potlucks, we came equipped with crates of Odwalla juice scavenged from a suburban dumpster, where whole cases were thrown away if one bottle was defective. The same went for wine, beer, and anything else that came in a pack. There were dumpsters for everything -- a chip dumpster, a bagel dumpster, a pizza dumpster, and even a toy dumpster. And we're not talking small quantities either. On a good night, we'd score enough bagels to feed a punk house for a month (and yes, the amount of carbohydrates I consumed was slightly appalling).

But dumpster diving isn't reserved for smelly teenaged punk kids. Anyone can search for treasures in the trash, whether they do so for anti-consumerist, ecological, profit-driven, or survival purposes. All it takes is a willingness to move past the stigma and get a little dirty.

"It's kind of like going to vintage stores but for food," said diver Greg Baker. "Instead of looking through a box of records, you're looking through a bag of lettuce or something."

40% of the food produced in the United States is thrown away. According to an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council, that means Americans are wasting $165 billion of food every year, largely because expiration dates are misinterpreted as the rigid final word on product safety and usefulness.

"I think we've all been conditioned to accept the fact that something's expired," diver Mark Mouat said. "What does that really entail?"

America's chronic waste problem becomes more pressing when you consider that almost 15% of the country is currently considered food insecure. While dumpster diving may not be a solution to the hunger and waste crises on its own, it's certainly an eye-opening indication of how inequitable our food system is.

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Curt Sullivan shows off his bounty.

Sorting through trash isn't as gross as you're probably thinking. Sure, divers come across the occasional dirty diaper and container of rotten ground beef, but, for the most part, foods are still packaged and relatively fresh.

Choosing which foods to snag from the trash is a great opportunity to exercise your common sense. If maggots are emerging from the bag of oranges you found under a pair of soiled underwear, don't eat the oranges. Most of the time, you wont run into anything that disgusting, but dumpsters are unpredictable and that's part of the thrill. And don't pay too much attention to the companies that claim dumpstered food is dangerous: It goes without saying, they want you to buy their food, not take it.

With that in mind, let's set the record straight: Dumpster diving is not stealing. In the 1984 case California vs. Greenwood, the Supreme Court declared that, "The Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home," meaning that unless local regulation prohibits dumpster diving or a company has specific rules about privacy and trespassing, their trash is fair game. That said, if you dumpster in an area with a clear "No Trespassing" sign, you risk being screamed at by employees, chased out, ticketed, or (worst case scenario) arrested. A friend I used to dive with once got his head stomped on by employees after being caught dumpstering a bouquet of flowers.

To avoid those consequences, it's best to follow a few general guidelines.



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30 comments
Samantha Goo
Samantha Goo

I don't dive for food.. I dive for the trinkets!!! Love it.. And don't believe them when they say it's legal.. I've been arrested on multiple occasions.. Be careful and dive on, if anyone knows any cool dumpsters lemme know

Vanessa Grausam
Vanessa Grausam

The businesses where you are dumpster diving don't really appreciate it. If you are that desperate to reuse their old crap why not go in and plead your case and then maybe if it's not too much of a liability they will save items for you. I used to work at 2 different grocery stores and we had strict policy about selling or giving away food that is recalled, expired, past date, etc... So donating isn't always an option either.

Sco Kel
Sco Kel

I'm sure you'll find plenty of citypages in those dumpsters too.

Ben Bakunin
Ben Bakunin

Used to be a porn dumpster behind that bookstore that was downtown, I forget the name. We used to get tons of nudie mags with the covers ripped off and then litter the floor with them at our parties on 22nd & Pillsbury.. Those were the days. Also used to be able to consistently pull produce out of the While Foods in St. Paul..

Heidi Newstrom
Heidi Newstrom

Food and non food items "should" be donated, but often times arent ever! Why not dumpster dive to get the food.. I'm all for it!

Meghan Walstrom
Meghan Walstrom

Movie theaters throw out HUGE bags full of freshly popped pop corn every night. Usually an hour or so after the last movie starts. In case you wanted some popcorn in your life, that will last a month.

Dustin Nelson
Dustin Nelson

don't fucking tell idiots the good spots, fuck!!!

Pejz Prucka
Pejz Prucka

food should be donated before thrown away

Tim Stang
Tim Stang

Hipsters up to no good.. I thought it was a rat moving around once in a dumpster so threw my bag of pots and pans from like 20 feet away.. Smoked a dude diving in the head. Lol

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

have you ever smelled a dumpster with food in it?

digitalprotocol
digitalprotocol topcommenter

bottom line... you're eating out of a dumpster


dumpsters are funny because they are so disgusting 

Dan Anderson
Dan Anderson

I just threw half a pan of chili away. You can have it.

Matthew Martin
Matthew Martin

I'm sure this will be part of a course taught at the U of M called, "Urban Survival"

Kelly Finney
Kelly Finney

I had many parties that my friends would bring the large garbage bags of fortune cookies!!!

emileif
emileif

@ajlalk3 Nah. I think I'll keep eating trash. Meanwhile, you might consider aspiring to be something more than a person who writes rude comments on all of my posts <3

hopjeremy
hopjeremy

@ajlalk3 How about you look beyond your perfect little world.  Some of us would be more than grateful to receive a loaf of bread and some Oranges.  Much better than going through the fast food window for the actual garbage being sold.

emileif
emileif

@ajlalk3 @emileif I very much appreciate that :)

ajlalk3
ajlalk3 topcommenter

@emileif  Sorry about being a dick. I have deleted the comments. Once again, I apologize.

emileif
emileif

@ajlalk3 Sigh. You're confusing me with Sarah Stanley-Ayre. I have never been to a rave.

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