Freeganism, commonly known as skipping or dumpster diving, has taken the underground world by storm. However, it was a phenomenon that I’d never heard of before I began my crazy hitchhiking adventures. Having had absolutely no information about it before J detailed it to me in a story, I was pretty shocked and a little grossed out when I first heard of it: you eat food from where? I was completely ignorant. I’d always been disturbed at the amount of leftovers thrown away at my old jobs and restaurants, but it wasn’t until my first skip that I came to understand just how bad of a problem food waste truly is.
Freeganism is the practice of reclaiming food that has been thrown out by supermarkets. It is not food that has passed its expiration date- that is a completely separate matter. Rather, freegan food is that which has passed its sell-by date and therefore cannot legally remain on store shelves. A sell-by date is determined by companies in an effort to avoid any opportunity for potential suing situations. In the U.S. alone, 40% of food purchased is wasted. This is despicable, even without considering the number of people who go hungry. By practicing skipping, my cycle buddies and I were able to obtain hundreds of Euros of food in just 26 days- all food that was perfectly delicious (and still in its original packaging), yet thrown aside to waste away!
In many countries, this practice is actually illegal. For fear of getting sued? I know not. It seems ridiculous to be fined for taking food that has already been discarded as trash, but, unfortunately, it happens around the world. Many companies actually place pad-locks on their bins in an attempt to discourage people from taking the waste. In Germany, a friend and I were kicked out of a store, our cucumber ripped from our purchase-intending grips, because the manager had seen us take four completely sealed juice boxes from the parking lot bin. Rather than allowing us to give him profit for the sole vegetable that we wanted to buy, this man chose to chastise us in German (while we giggled as his accent and facial expressions) and chuck us from the store. “Good riddance, friend”, I remember saying. “We’ll just take our business to the next shop 50 meters away”. This is the only example of trouble I experienced while in pursuit of saving waste, so I think it’s safe to assume that the odds are in your favor.
When searching the bins, you sometimes come up empty handed; other times, you hit the motherload. On one occasion, my friend actually found three small kegs of German beer. Never fret after a fruitless experience: trust me, there will always be more!
Still not convinced? That’s ok. I probably wouldn’t be either. For more information on the subject check out Freegan Info and other related sites. Who knows: it just might change your thinking.
I remember seeing a story on freeganism years ago on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I would totally try it – I just need to find a group.
I wasn’t aware that something liek “Freeganism” actually exist, thanks Leah! Still, what a waste! (pun intended) Probably another miracle of our times, making something like skipping food a legal matter. Some of the finds in your images look like decent “trashures” indeed… ? Need to keep that in mind when being on a longer trip in Europe. Thanks again for sharing!
Wow interesting! I’ve known a few people that have done this, but I honestly thought it was dumpster diving for scraps! Not taking all of the extra food thrown out by businesses. That really is a waste. Do you know what countries it is illegal in?
I’ve never done it but I think freeganism is great. So much food is wasted, why not use it? I remember reading that some supermarkets in the UK would put dye on the food so that people wouldn’t try to claim it from the bins. And others, like you mention, lock the bins. I think it’s so sad. I wish they would donate all the food to the homeless or something. I’ve heard it’s because they are afraid of being sued as well, but I don’t know if that’s true.
Dye the food so that it is ensured to be waste?! That’s absolute madness. Get it together, world!
Woah, this is new for me as well! Never considered checking behind a store. Might be a fun experiment to try here in Pohang. Heck, we could have a reclaimed food potluck!
The amount of food waste today is insane! I knew someone back in Seattle who lived an entire year as a Freegan. It makes you think twice to look in the fridge before you go shopping/make something. Use the food you already have!
Food waste is such a huge problem! I feel guilty any time we don’t finish all of our fresh fruit and veg before they go bad. I can’t help but think of this episode of Extreme Cheapskates I watched when I read your post. Your way is much more reasonable than theirs though! The girl on the episode throws a dinner party for her friend and his girlfriend (that she’s never met) by picking up random food stuff from garbage cans around the city and then she made a bunch of really terrible dishes with them.
This is pretty cool. I would try it, if it was still in the original packaging, but I don’t know about other non packaged stuff. Do you know if it’s a thing in Korea? I’ve never tried it but I have taken french fries off the table of people who leave them at bars…. does that count?
But I get the appeal of getting stuff for free. It must be such a rush to find a nice score, and safe all that money, too. And also the name is important. If you say dumpster diving, it sounds gross, but also, Freeganism isn’t that attractive of a word either. Something better?
Never knew such a thing existed. Great idea though, if you can hack it. Especially since food waste has always been a big problem.
Interesting post – even though it’s not my cup of tea. #cleanfreak
I loev the idea of freeganism, but kind of just have no idea how to go about it! Like, what time should you go? When do shops throw stuff out? That sort of thing…
I didn’t know either! They throw the stuff out at the end of the day, so it’s usually best to go out at night. However, some places might consider it trespassing if you’re found after hours. I’ve only been “caught” once and it was the middle of the day, so as as long as you wait until later, you’ll be good. Fire any more questions my way ?
What happened when you got caught!? Did they just ask you to leave nicely?
Have you found it’s different depending on the country as well?
Yep, different by country. Very illegal in Germany (where I got caught) and there was nothing nice about the interaction. They didn’t have us arrested, just opted to yell and cause a scene in German and then refuse to let us make purchases in their store. No big deal. It’s legal across most of the U.S., though. There are some great resources online for finding out. Also bear in mind that most countries across the world would NEVER think to waste the way that the West does, so freeganism is mostly relevant in North America, Europe, and other English-speaking countries.
That was lucky, but still pretty uncomfortable I imagine. Yes, the UK is really terrible with the amount they waste (as I know from previously working in catering here) and I’m sure the US is much the same. I’ve heard that in the UK bakeries through out amazingly fresh bread everyday, such a shame.
[…] their budget adventure, they dumpster dived for food (and even found free beer!), and cooked on a Beer Can […]