Dumpster Diving to Raise Awareness About Food Waste

Think dumpster diving is for hipsters and homeless people? Think again. While people have been rummaging through discards for centuries to find edible food to support themselves and their families, dumpster diving is going increasingly mainstream, and in Germany, it’s just gone high tech. A network of Germans who want to reduce food waste, highlight the huge food waste problem in the West, and, let’s face it, feed themselves, have worked out an innovative foodsharing network that shows how dumpsters don’t have to be the end point of unwanted food.

Food waste has been in the news a lot recently, with more and more people growing aware of the sheer volume of food thrown out in Western nations every year. In the U.S. alone, food accounts for an eye-goggling 21% of municipal solid waste.  Worldwide, over one trillion dollars worth of food is thrown out every year, making up a third of the food produced. That’s a whole lot of food going nowhere, which is bad for the environment and bad for people. Advocates against food waste want to see production cut, food diverted to the people who need it and alternatives to landfilling or incineration (like composting) pursued with more vigor.

Meanwhile, in the Global South, food waste is much lower; in fact, the total amount of food wasted in the West amounts to almost the entire food production of Sub-Saharan Africa. Huge discrepancies exist worldwide in terms of who can access a steady supply of fresh, healthy food, and food waste is a significant contributor, as it diverts resources, farmland and food itself to the production of food for some while others starve. Achieving a state of balance and equal distribution of food resources requires rethinking individual relationships with food and waste, but also changing the entire model of the food system.

Which brings us to Germany, where dumpster divers and allies can sign up for a foodsharing network that distributes information about the latest hot dumpster finds, including bread, chocolate, fresh fruit, cheese, packaged foods, and more. Like other Western nations, Germany routinely discards food that isn’t “perfect,” even if it’s totally edible; bananas that look funny, tomatoes that aren’t quite as rosy-red as they should be. Food may also be discarded before sell-by dates if it’s no longer on trend or if a store needs to clear space. All this food is fine to eat, and can in fact be quite delicious, but historically, access to it was limited to those willing to rummage around in dumpsters to find it.

All that’s changing with the foodsharing network, which includes anonymous pickup and dropoff points in key locations, along with a website with constantly updated information on where people can pick up food. This distribution network diverts edible food to hungry or otherwise interested mouths, and keeps it out of the landfill. More than that, in the long term, an effective foodsharing network can relieve pressures on the Global South, which could in turn help combat hunger in this region of the world, especially when paired with other food saving initiatives.

Could the foodsharing network spread? Let’s hope so, because in addition to being innovative, it’s easily replicable and could make a big difference in communities across the world. While the movement is very young, it has real potential to become something amazing. Even for those not interested in taking advantage of it, it’s a great starting point for a conversation about wasted food.

Related posts:

We Waste 23 Pounds of Food a Month But We Don’t Have To

Why Aren’t We Addressing the Food Waste Problem?

Does Your Annual Food Waste Exceed Your Body Weight?

Photo credit: Incase.

203 comments

Marcie McGovern
Marcie McGovern11 months ago

I never dumpster dived for food but did collect coke bottles in the 1970's along side roads. I lived in my car at the time with my 6mo old baby. I got money for the bottles and got food for my baby first and if I had enough after buying gas, I got myself food.
If I knew about dumpster diving for food back then, yes, I would have but would have been very careful what I selected.
Thankfully I was able to get back on my 'feet' and got a small house for myself and baby. Did it on my own without asking for help....still have a problem today asking for help.
In need of a place to stay now because my older sister claims....."it's just not working out." Wonder if it is because I tell her she does not have the right to put her hands on me violently.?? Always paid rent.....never late, but I need to leave. Don't drink, smoke, do drugs but I still have to leave.
I go hungry on the days she is home because she doesn't want me out of my room. "It's her house." Wish I had a dime for everytime I've heard that. Then why am I paying all but $94. of her mortgage? (Thought her house payments were more. Lied to again.)
The amount of food she waste amazes me but I am not allowed to say anything.
Sad so many people have to go hungry, be homeless or feel unwanted.
Thanks to all that help others.....your awesome!!!
Big Hugs to you all.

Bryna Pizzo
Bryna Pizzo2 years ago

The very idea of throwing edible food away when people are going hungry is simply shocking. We need to petition stores where we live to do the right thing and donate the food to a food pantry.
Thank you for the news.

Duane B.
.3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Eric B.
Eric B.3 years ago

Dumpster diving has always been a symbol of what you can expect out of Washington dc metro area i know of. The homeless people on the streets are treated like garbage. (it makes me so sick) The people from young to old on the streets are just trying to do whatever they can do the Police harass them daily and the harsh winters and cold temps are slowly killing them. Now the economy has deal them another blow and there suffering more than ever.
DC the home of the white house, political leaders and bunches of the Governments executive (don't seem to care about anything expert themselves) Big Gov't contracting businesses (Booz Allen) that throw away 238 pound of food last year instead of giving it to the food kitchens, the poor or homeless) the Gov't office agencies that constantly throw food away and refuse to give it to people who need it and NOW the writers of this article seem SURPRISED well don't be. Gov't waist of everything has gone on so long (there Gov't, they have job, don't need to worry about income or where there family will get there next meal but real people DO. This wastefulness weather Gov't agencies or contractors (booz Allen) can not be tolerated anymore and must be recognized for what these people at these agencies really are uncaring and selfish.
Someday I hope the shoe turns someday so they realize what bustards they really are.

Christina Hudler
Christina Hudler3 years ago

All the places around here have their dumpsters locked up -- the sad thing is that so much of the food could at least be donated with the liability being on the nonprofits taking the food and NOT the store. Many stores say that they can't give food because they would be held liable, but there are laws that make that completely UNTRUE.

Dagmar Breg
Past Member 3 years ago

It makes me sick that people are starving and we have enough food to feed them, but toss it away instead.

William Meade
William Meade3 years ago

not sure if all big stores in uk still do this
but they used to put holes in tins and remove food
from packages and pour salt over it to stop people
taking it from there dumpsters

Alicja Kramek
Alicja Kramek3 years ago

thanks

pranoti w.
pranoti waghmare3 years ago

thanks

Danielle A. Reid
Danielle A Reid3 years ago

Oh, man...don't give me this f*cking crap! If you are starving and in need of medical care....you will FIND it if you look and search for it. Oh....and yeah....do NOT, I repeat do NOT make appointments that you KNOW you will never show up for.....UGH! If you need help, you will get it. Just don't eff it up!! If you are high or drugged out, you lose.