Dumpster dining: freegans consume waste food to protest consumer waste
IT'S COLD AND DARK. A light drizzle adds to the gloom of the asphalt parking lot in downtown Melbourne where I stand beside a dumpster bin. Cars rumble by, windshield wipers slapping, as shoppers swoop out of the grocery store grasping plastic bags. Muffled sounds emanate from inside the bin. A hoot of joy precedes the emergence of an outstretched arm clasping an unidentifiable object.
"What is it?" I ask.
"It's a chocolate bilby!" my whiskery friend proclaims. "A bilby in entirely one piece!" brags Jim as he proudly peels back the foil and takes a large bite. (1)
Jim is a "freegan." He has enough money to buy food but chooses to eat out of dumpster bins to protest against wasteful consumption. Despite how distasteful this practice might seem to most people, my friend is not alone. Reports of freegan activities span the Western world. Aside from disadvantaged people who cannot afford to buy adequate food, there is an international stirring of people who glean edible food that would normally be thrown away. Political and environmental concerns motivate these individuals.
Freegans include "dumpster divers," such as my friend Jim who collects food from supermarket dumpster bins. But freegans may also be members of Food Not Bombs, an international group that encourages members to collect surplus food before it hits the bins and then give it to street people. The very existence of these groups makes plain the staggering amount of good food that is thrown away. In turn, they emphasize society's need to rethink its ethics around eating.
The typical Western food cycle...
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