For Gold, Peace, and Freedom


Freegans and the Practice of Dumpster Diving

May 23rd, 2009

freegan-dumpster-diving.jpgFreegan, a modern word combined from ‘vegan’ and ‘free’, means people who not only object to eating animal products but also those who boycott an economy which is driven by profit, because of the abuse to animals, humans and the earth itself which results as a byproduct. Recognizing that there is an impact resulting from the purchase of everyday products, Freegans opt to reuse or forgo entirely in order to avoid contributing to the destruction of the rainforest, global warming, sweatshop labor, and many other social and environmental issues. Having realized that an individual is not likely to change the habits of a modern industrialized nation, Freegans do what they can in order to avoid contributing to the mass socioeconomic practice of marketing for profit instead of need.

It is no secret that our economy is based on waste. The more society wastes the more that is purchased, and mass marketing and commercialism only serve to promote this practice by stressing quality of goods over practicality. Take for example the banana sitting on the supermarket shelf. Blemishes are considered a sign of spoilage and few will buy the banana unless it is pristine yellow, when in reality even a darkly colored banana is as good. As a result, these blemished bananas would end up in a trash bin. In order to practice their desire to stand against greed and materialism, and to ensure that the blemished banana is not wasted, Freegans have developed a method known as Dumpster Diving.

Dumpster Diving or Urban Foraging involves a simple practice of digging through dumpsters located behind retailers, offices, and other facilities. This usually rewards the forager with items such as food, clothing, furniture, and other consumer goods, all of which are perfectly fine and safe for use or consumption.

In addition, foraged used items are often available for trade through the use of specialized websites and other community based groups. “Freemeets” are also becoming more popular, where people trade their used goods for other used goods, all without the exchange of money.

Anything not used by a Freegan is meticulously composted, repaired or recycled to ensure that they are not contributing to the ongoing pattern of waste. While modern society as a whole may never abandon its practice of routinely throwing away usable items, Freegans are increasing in number and their practice of dumpster diving is just one of their strategies employed for practical living. And it certainly makes a profound social statement to see somebody digging through a dumpster in order to feed their family on what others have thrown away.

Jennifer Allen is a professional writer who holds an Honors B.A. in English Literature from the University of Toronto and has been published in a variety of venues. Her secondary love of all things food led to a career as a chef before she returned to full time status as a freelance writer.

One Response to “Freegans and the Practice of Dumpster Diving”

  1. comment number 1 by: Daethian

    Dumpster diving is not a new practice, neither is the freemeet concept. This has been going on online for years on sites like Freecycle and ReUseIt where we list our unwanted items for others to claim to keep them out of landfills. These guys are taking it to a new level! I think I’ve also seen a tv show that shows how much food is wasted by dumpster diving and then preparing a meal from the food they find.

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