Thoughts from a Dumpster

Cian White

How I found myself eating food from a bin.

A couple of weeks ago I found myself wandering around the streets of north Dublin with ten or so other Trinity students, looking for dumpsters. Later that night, as I tucked into the stir fry full of our spoils, I wondered is this where the environmental movement has gone: to robbing food from a bin?

First things first, I can assure you that I did not get sick or feel anyway unwell after eating that meal. Any food collected was unspoiled and it was all thoroughly washed before being eaten. And you know what, it tasted delicious. And I had saved myself ten euro.

But as you might imagine, this is not where I thought my night was going. Rob Greenfield was giving a talk to the Environment society and the event description piqued my interest so I decided to pop along. Like most of you I had never really heard of Rob Greenfield. All I knew was that he was an environmentalist and even that was just from reading the poster. Turns out he’s a bit more than that. He’s also a self described activist, adventurer and all round dude. Living in a 4.6m2 home (which is tiny!) off grid in San Diego, Rob raises awareness about environmental issues. He’s cycled across America living off whatever he could find, trekked across South America with no money and more recently has organised hundreds of Food Fiasco’s around the States[1].

But what the hell is a Food Fiasco I hear you cry. Basically it’s where the dumpsters behind a supermarket are searched/raided for any food that is still edible. You’d think that there wouldn’t be much to find but Rob never buys food. From only a few dumpsters in San Diego Rob can feed himself for a week or so and this is how he gets his food for the year! For a few hours work Rob can get as much as two to three hundred Euros worth of food!

That’s a serious amount of food for a few hours work. Image source

But how much food is thrown out? In Ireland about 1 million tonnes of food is wasted each year, of which around 22% comes from the food retail sector[2]. Of course much of that is not edible but a surprising amount still is. Let us pessimistically say that just one percent is edible, an estimate that is way too small but will still surprise you. So that is ten thousand tonnes a year right, which is roughly twenty seven tonnes a day, that is 27,000 kilos of food every day going to waste. And let us say that on average, an Irish person will eat two kilos of food a day. That means that you could feed 13,500 people every day! Just from food that is thrown away. You could feed Athlone, my home town, indefinitely with just food that is thrown away. If say three percent of food wasted is edible then you could feed Longford, the entire county! Everyday for as long as you want.

To hammer this point home take a look at this food clock: it terrifies me.

Of course  dumpster diving is not a way to solve the world’s food problems. Advocates say that is the most eco friendly way of eating and in a way it is. At the moment. To be harsh you could say that it is parasitic. Food wastage is just a symptom of the over-consumption of the society we live in and intolerance to anything but perfect looking food. Dumpster diving is not a way to solve it.

However even saying that, by going out and actually doing this, by seeing the amount of perfectly edible food that is being thrown out really drives home the figures from above, you really see the insane amount of food wasted. We do need to rethink our view of food. Shiny apples coated in wax, succulent meat injected with water, sell by dates that are impractical. We need to eat local, eat healthy and take pride in where our food comes from. A euro ham burger is a euro for a reason.

And besides as a student; dumpster diving (so American sounding!) is bloody cheap, just look at what a group of Trinity students recently got in one night.


If you would like to go out and dumpster dive just pop along to your local supermarket about eleven at night and have a peek in the oul’ bin. Feeling lonely? Bring along a friend or ask around your area, there is always someone who knows the best sites. Pic ‘n’ mix has never been so fun.


1: <;



Featured Image Source


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s