An Ode to Dumpster Diving

fourth year mk manoylov

photo by noah buchanan

photo by noah buchanan

If one man’s trash is someone’s treasure, then I’ve thrown myself in more tetanus encrusted boxes of gold than all the kings of England combined. With yellow work gloves covering my hands, I sift through dented boxes of mac and cheese, seemingly endless bottles of orange juice, and busted  cans of baked beans. I call it food shopping.

Dumper diving isn’t for the squeamish. “You wanna do what?” people would ask me as I tell them, incredulous that I’d want to eat trash. What they call the undesirable, capitalism’s “other” in the market of technicolor, unblemished products. But I’d look at them, smile, and tell them, “Yes I do. And it’s still just as tasty.”

The way I see it, dumpster diving gives new life to dead things. Dumpsters are a kind of purgatory, whether it be food (my expertise), electronics, clothes, or other detritus. When you go into dumpsters, you see that these items aren’t there fairly: even if an item is broken, it can be repurposed. Just like anything, some tender loving and care goes a long way.

With food especially, I see how the calories carelessly dumped in these trash receptacles can feed people. Stomachs all over America rumble while edible food rots in dumpsters. Nearly 40 percent of the food grown in the USA will end up in landfills, according to the Natural Resource Defense Council. This not only wastes the food itself, but the resources used to grow the food. US agriculture uses 80 percent of America’s consumable water, meaning roughly 28 million gallons of water will be trashed as well. The magnitude of the waste blows my mind.

I’m not saying everyone should eat trash, but it’s the most nutritious food I know. Instead you could take the most wasted things in our society, those deemed ‘not good enough’ for whatever reason, and say, “No. I don’t know who said that to you-- but you’re good enough for me.” Tell someone that this “trash” can nourish hungry bodies in this world. You are what you eat, right? You’re eating good food and finding salvation. Mac and cheese with sprinkles of renewed purpose. Saving things from a sad fate. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

But if you are too squeamish to dive in, I understand. Dumpster diving isn’t for everyone. You can, however, do your part to make sure edible food doesn’t end up in your own household trash. While dumpster diving can be fun, I’d like to live in a world where I don’t have to do it anymore. I want to know that “waste” was past tense.