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.