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I Am A Dumpster Diver. Here’s What I’ve Learned.

I stand in front of fresh, artisanal bread, crunchy green vegetables, fine gourmet cheese and flawless pieces of meat. These things are expensive and out of my budget. Or they would be – unless they’re all free.

This one The seemingly endless buffet is one of the many times I’ve discovered high quality food while dumping in the U.S. I’ve spent the past four years rescuing discarded food from commercial dumpsters.

For those unfamiliar with dumpster diving, I imagine your reaction might be disgusting. That’s how I felt when I first heard about it. It’s only natural that we associate dumpsters with rotten, moldy food and other rubbish. But the reality is that dumpsters are also places where ridiculous amounts of perfectly edible food are shipped once their expiration date (even though they’re still edible) or even when they just don’t look as “perfect” as they used to. Slightly chipped bananas are a good example.

My introduction to the dumpster diving community began as a college student in London. My schedule meant that most of my grocery shopping would be done at night as the shops closed for the evening. That was the first time I saw huge amounts of delicious fresh produce end up in the trash. And when I tried to speak to grocery store employees to see if I could buy this food cheaply, I was always faced with head shakes and excuses about “company policy” and “liability risk”.

In the following years I traveled the world using dumpster diving as a reliable source of food. The more I did, the more I realized that all of this food waste is not confined to a single area or community. This is a global crisis.

futurewalk via Getty Images Unsold fresh products are disposed of with the garbage in front of a grocery store.

Today I’m back home in the USA, where 40 percent of All of the food produced each year is wasted (and if you’re wondering, in most places it’s legal to dive in dumpsters as long as you don’t enter a house). In this country, an estimated 40 million people are food insecure, including more than 12 million children.

Then there are the effects on the environment. It takes a lot of land to produce enough food to feed the 7.7 billion people on earth. About 11 percent of the earth’s land area are only used for plant production.

The production of food requires huge amounts of water and pesticides and fertilizers who pollute our water sources and Energy to transport the food to the consumers. And when uneaten food rot, it produces methane emissions , a powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.

The modern agricultural system has disconnected most people from the reality of eating. Where we used to hunt, collect, cultivate, raise and harvest, many of us now only have to consume (via the occasional visit to the grocery store or restaurant). We pay others to produce and dispose of our food for us, and companies that want to sell their goods show us idealized ideas about how food should look and taste. Vegetables and fruits that grow in unusual shapes are thrown away, and in many Western cultures only certain parts of animals are considered edible – like the breast, thighs, and wings of a chicken – the rest is wasted.

We take what we eat for granted and have forgotten what a privilege it is to have an excess of light to have accessible food.

Cameron Macleish Macleish is sitting in front of he was a huge meal, which was prepared from dumpsters in one of the communities he lived in while he was traveling around the world.

Looking for my own way to solve this problem, I have Cooking With Trash , a YouTube show that enables me to expose the food waste crisis on a larger platform and to dive into dumpsters as a sub-project promote solution.

With a little help, grocery stores are also starting to take action. Here in the US, organizations like Feeding America and Food Not Bombs collect” not for sale “Groceries from grocery stores and other businesses and distributing them to food insecure communities. The Good Samaritan Food Donation Act 1996 generally exempts companies from liability when donating food to charitable organizations. Companies can also Tax deductions for donated Food . Together, these programs and laws provide convenient incentives for any business to reuse unwanted food.

That means it really gives no excuse why so much food waste exists in the first place. Despite being a dumpster diver, I am hoping for a time when I struggle to find free, tasty, edible foods that are thrown away and dumpsters reserved for actual waste only. In the meantime, dumpster diving is a way for all of us to become proactive in reducing food waste. It might not be a permanent solution, but it’s a start.

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