An insight into the underground world of dumpster diving

Dumpster diving continues to be an important source of food for many South Australians (Image Source: ABC News)

By Annalise Toms | @annalise_toms

With climate change becoming the most important issue facing our generation, the “war on waste” has become more vital than ever.

This begs the question as to what change is needed in the world to save it before the effects of the crisis become irreversible.

Miffy* is an Adelaide vigilante who is doing her part one dumpster dive at a time.

Miffy started dumpster diving in October 2017 after viewing some videos of diving in the US, she now trawls the bins of Adelaide once every week.

She joined a local dumpster diving Facebook group and observed for a while before she mustered up the courage to meet with a fellow diver and try it for herself.

“I cannot stand waste, and food waste has been a big interest of mine,” Miffy said.

“I have always been an avid recycler, and I was inspired by some videos of people going zero waste and videos of dumpster diving from America that popped up on my Facebook feed.”

There are more than 2000 members in the Adelaide dumpster trading Facebook group, where members can discuss all aspects of dumpster diving and connect with like-minded people.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, one-third of all food produced worldwide is either lost or wasted; wasted food refers to the discarding of food that is safe for human consumption.

In a report by the ABC, Australian households discard $8 billion worth of edible food a year with food wastage estimated to cost our economy $20 billion annually.

Dumpster diving has divided opinion among Miffy’s family, with her parents not so supportive at the beginning of her diving journey.

Now—after witnessing the amount of edible food Miffy finds, and the benefits of her actions for the environment and the people she feeds—they are in full support.

“At first, when I told my parents, they were so critical,” Miffy said.

“My dad’s words were ‘well, I’m not bailing you out of jail when you get caught!’ But now they see the amount of perfectly edible food I recover…they are in full support.

“They don’t, however, like that I do it on my own most of the time and worry for my safety.”

This is the side of dumpster diving that can be unnerving and intimidating.

The hobby is a risk and a safety hazard, especially if you are a solo diver or predominately diving at night.

Miffy has been caught diving before by all kinds of people.

“I have been caught by workers, store managers, security guards and fellow divers,” Miffy said.

“Security and managers will ask you to move on, and I am always polite and follow their requests.

“Sometimes workers are friendly and just say hi after the shock of seeing someone going through their bin has passed.”

Like other divers, Miffy does not reveal her best locations; and she only visits supermarkets after the night-fill finishes to avoid getting caught.

The community of dumpster divers is thriving, and there are divers Miffy sees regularly.

“There are some regulars I bump into and follow people on the Facebook pages,” Miffy said.

“But I must say, people usually stick to themselves as they are often diving with purpose, so people often only share if they have too much of something.”

Although huge financial savings can be made by diving, it is a cut-throat, “watch your back” kind of a world where divers are out to retrieve their favourites for themselves and others.

Another barrier that dumpster divers commonly encounter is locked bins.

This is particularly troubling for divers who depend on these bins to feed themselves and their families.

However, it is understandable that the supermarkets lock these bins, considering the huge amount of mess left by some divers after their late-night rummaging.

According to Miffy, there are unwritten rules and etiquette to dumpster diving: you should leave the area it how it was found, if not cleaner, and if you are asked to leave, you do so without causing a scene.

“It is because of people who do the wrong thing and give diving a bad reputation that bins get locked, and then no one can benefit and more landfill is generated,” Miffy said.

The legality of dumpster diving varies from council to council, and some divers have faced fines of up to $900 for their actions.

*Names of people have been changed or omitted for privacy reasons.

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