I tried something new a few weeks back. It was adventurous. It was rebellious. It was a little bit dirty and just on the edge of dangerous; and it was freaking awesome! Let me paint you a picture. I’ve been taught all my life that once things are in the trash, they’re no good. Which in theory is pretty sound practice. Except sometimes, people trash things based off of rules that may not always be relevant. For example, best before dates on products in grocery stores are largely just sell before dates. The store has to sell the items before this date to avoid selling perished goods. Makes sense right? The store doesn’t want to harm anyone by selling them food that’s turned; but what about the food that’s still perfectly fine yet, it has this date? They still have to trash it! This is where Dumpster Diving comes in!
A coworker and I were discussing food waste recently. We both work together at a Zero Waste Grocery Store in Montreal. We’re both pretty good in keeping our waste to a minimum and seeing as how we both love working for this amazing company, it’s clear we had the same ideals when it comes to our negative output. We were putting out the compost when the discussion of dumpster diving came up. I was telling him of the movie “Just Eat It” where a young couple decide to spend 6 months only eating what was wasted. It showed them going through dumpsters and pulling out piles and piles of perfectly good food that a number of companies just tossed away. He mentioned how he’s done it a couple times before and that we should try it together sometime! Clearly I was down. Even if I couldn’t get past the wall that was created in my own mind, that was telling me this was icky and that I shouldn’t touch anything, at least we would have shared this new experience. So we had the idea and we made a plan and invited a friend each to join in on the fun. We aimed for a night that was supposed to be cold because it’s basically like a giant fridge outside. There would be less spoilage in our minds. I wanted to try this at least once in my life. The couple who did the documentary were actually the same couple who inspired me to go Zero Waste in the beginning. Being made aware of all the wasted food products around the world was incredibly shocking to me and I needed to see it first hand.
The day finally arrived and we got ready to head out on our mission. I don’t feel comfortable mentioning which store we went to, but you should know that there’s legitimately a map on google that shows dumpsters that are available for this. It’s probably one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a long time.
The area was very well lit from street lights and the store itself. We all surrounded the dumpster as if we were about to attack it and just like that, she was gone. My coworker’s friend had just hopped right in like a seasoned pro. Up and over and she didn’t even skip a beat! Now this dumpster was about 7 feet tall, had no proper place to hold onto or to climb. She pulled herself up using a small ledge on the side and poof, she was gone into the near empty dumpster. We had each taken up space on the side to help grab items out. To collect everything and of course, to help her out afterwards. We were in and out within 10 minutes.
Once we got back to my friend’s place, we were able to see just what treasures we had! Let me tell you. I was in shock and awe. I COULD NOT believe how much we gathered of still good food that night.
Here’s a detailed list of the goods keeping in mind that we were only there for 10 minutes:
- 17 dozen eggs (after we picked out the cracked ones)
- 6 yogurt in glass jars
- 9 packets of 500 gram cheese
- 6 bricks of marbled cheese
- 2 coffee creamers
- 2 full cases of yogurts in the cups
- Chocolate milk
- 2 yogurt with crunchy bits
- 1 large bag of probiotics yogurt
- 4 Philadelphia cream smoothies
- 1 tube of Pillsbury cinnamon roll
The biggest shock to me were the eggs. Mostly free range and it seemed as though there was a spill or something on the cartons because they only expired February something (we did this back in January). Or maybe a top dozen had broken and all the cartons were now soiled because of this. This was the case for 2 large boxes. Another contained many dozen eggs, but one egg had been cracked, so the dozen was tossed. We tossed the bad ones into the compost bin, gathered the good ones, washed everything and sorted through the piles to make an even distribution. We were 4 people and my husband and I ran off with 7 dozen eggs (I’ll pause here to let that sink in. 7. DOZEN. EGGS.) along with many other treats.
For a first time experience, I could not have asked for a better time. It’s been awhile now, all the food has either been eaten since or frozen (did you know you can freeze cheese?). I, my husband and my friends have not gotten sick in the process. I drank both cartons of the creamer and shared with anyone at work who wanted some. They eventually both went and nothing was wasted after all. I’ll definitely be trying this again sometime, at least during the colder months.
I hope you enjoyed this story, I’m very happy to be able to share my experience with you. If you’d like more tips and tricks to living Zero Waste, head over and like my page on Facebook Live Waste Free. Where you’ll get daily ideas to keep you going on the Zero-Waste path.
Or follow me on Instagram @livewastefree for random pics and funnies!
As a final note, I would like to add that this could be dangerous. It was icy that day and we could have slipped and fell. Or gotten stuck in the dumpster without a proper way out. If you choose to try it out, please be safe. The dumpsters are designed to keep people out because they don’t want us to get hurt. I do not believe that these big corporations are evil geniuses trying to keep us from the goods. They just don’t want anyone to get injured because of their practices. Be safe friends xo.