Everything in this freezer came from dumpsters. These meats include a large ham roast in the center middle aisle; we removed ice trays to make room.

Eating Out Of Dumpsters: This Year Compared To Last Year

Because site stats at my small website indicate continued interest in the subject of dumpster diving, I am writing this to inform the discussion by continuing to share some of our personal experiences.

Everything in this freezer came from dumpsters. These meats include a large ham roast in the center middle aisle; we removed ice trays to make room.

We continue to observe a declining economy in our experiences with dumpster diving. Six or seven years ago, when I dove out of hobby more than need, I only told a few people what I was doing. Dumpster diving felt wrong, maybe not as wrong as robbing a bank, but at least as wrong as some good Southern sin like skipping church to watch football and covet the neighbor’s wife. Fast forward to 2012: we dive out of need, in the light of day, and we are not alone. Since even seasoned scrappers and dumpster divers are often reluctant to pick up food, I never thought I would see the day when there was great competition for discarded food in the United States, but that is exactly what we have observed.

Last year we joked about eating out of dumpsters and about how much we hate it when people actually put garbage into a dumpster. We asked ourselves why we had waited so long. This year, it is no longer a joke. Our competition is varied, clean and extremely thorough. We have directly observed people picking up food in the middle of the day, and we have varied our routine and reduced our food choices accordingly.

It is now harder to find thrown away fruits, vegetables, and grain products, and we believe that we are observing the direct effects of unemployment as well as…struggles. Not everyone who picks up food, and this includes ourselves, is technically below the poverty level, believe it or not. No one appears disheveled or otherwise compromised, and in some cases, people drive high-end vehicles to dive dumpsters. We believe that we share with a good many others, what one might call ‘borderline.’

Borderline is a hop-skip-and-jump thin grey line between making it, or getting by, versus totally falling apart. One does not have to be technically poor to be borderline. I suspect that a good many people with money are one flat tire and a ten minute half-life away from absolutely losing it. There is no security, no assurance, no sense anymore in this country today that we will somehow work hard and do better than our parents did before us. Borderline people thank goodness for their health and pray that no one gets sick. Borderline people dive dumpsters. They are you, me, the neighbor, the grocery store manager, the person walking next to you. This is what America looks like to us, today.

We began writing about dumpster diving with full awareness that there may be increased competition, and in fact, we quit scrapping all together because the scrap we collected was no longer sufficient to cover gas prices, which were, in the end, higher than God. A motorcycle fixed our gas problem, and there are days when I still see mouth-watering scrap, like that gigantic Shop-Vac I saw the other day, and had to just, like, leave it there in the trash. Who throws away a Shop Vac? Who does that? I’ll tell you who. It is people who cannot afford to move anything when they relocate. People are less and less able to move their things. This is yet another sad, direct observation, more noticeable this year than last year. People who are less and less able to move their things when they relocate are you, me, and us. Dumpsters are a great leveler. There is no talk of right, left, rich, or poor at a dumpster. We are there because of what we have in common.

Here are some things that I have collected from dumpsters, that people have left behind. Everything in this picture, including the glass cabinet that the display is on, was abandoned by somebody and has a history, with one exception: The blue purse hanging on the vintage mirror to the right was a gift from my son:

Dumpster Diving odds and ends

There is a lot that is not in this picture. I only show, for example, a small jar full of a giant seashell collection that I cannot bear to send to the landfill. I suspect that many of the items may have been abandoned because, for whatever reason, it was too painful to keep them.

One last miscellaneous observation has to do with the climate. It is warmer this year than it was last year. This has reduced our laundry costs. I used to dress in layers, and I went through an outfit a day. Last February, I got frostbite to my hands, and was unable to do much of anything for several weeks. This year, I honestly cannot remember wearing layers or even much more than a jacket. There was a brief period of long sleeves but that was it. This February brought the songs of frogs.

PS: Some might argue that it is the banks, and not the robbers, doing the robbing.