Each day supermarkets throw away huge amounts of edible food. In Europe, over 89 billion tons of food is being thrown away. For some people this is just unacceptable. Therefore they go through dumpsters every day in search of edible fruit, meat or vegeatables. Meet... the dumpster divers.
One of these dumpster divers is Laurence Ashmore. Ms Ashmore is the co-founder of Emo-ware, a small group of dumpster divers in Denmark who publish an on-line blog on their activities. She started dumpster diving in 2006 when she was working in the UK and living together with some dumpster divers. When she later moved to Denmark she realised it “was actually quicker and easier to dumpster dive than it was to deal with shopping aisles and checkouts. There's always the various politcal/ethical influences, but to begin with it was mostly the promise of bringing home large quantities of good quality food for free. That, and I absolutely hate wasting food”, she says. “Sometimes, you won’t believe what you can find in these dumpsters. Sometimes we find 5kg of good cheese or boxes with fancy chocolate. Normally we're just ecstatic to get a good range of fruit and vegetables”, she continues.
Dumspter diving does have a political and ethical dimension. “Getting free food is all very well, but dumpster diving doesn’t solve any problems apart from your own. I hear a lot of people complaining about the rising price of food, but for me the problem is the other way around. We pay less for food now than we've ever done, relative to income/GDP. The food industry has pushed the price of food down to breaking point by externalising costs all the way down the production line, and I don't want to be complicit in that”, she says
Dumpster-diving may be considered to be a criminal offence for either trespassing (when an “enclosure”, in other words a fence, a wall or something similar has been climbed), or breaking & entering (when a lock is picked etc.). But it is not a universal crime. In Italy, for example, a law issued in 2000 declared dumpster diving to be legal. Ms Ashmore is always very careful when scavenging for food. “We never try anything risky, it's usually not even necessary. Why jump fences and try to dodge security cameras when there are always other dumpsters nearby that are more easily accessible”, she explains.
Because of the criminal context, dumpster divers are sometimes perceived in a negative way. However they are often engaged in positive and constructive initiatives. A few years ago, when living in Canada, Ashmore joined the Food Not Bombs-group. The FNB is a global movement that strives to end hunger, supports actions to stop the globalization of the food economy and the exploitation of the earth. “I helped to run a Food Not Bombs group. We had agreements with several farmers and a local bakery who donated all their bread to a different charity every night. However they were only allowed to give away certain products, half of their stuff couldn't be donated for hygiene reasons”, Ashmore says.
Ashmore is highly sceptical about the issue of food waste. “Food waste is a by-product of food industrialisation. Cramming thousands of chickens into a warehouse is efficient for making money, but not efficient in terms of anything else. If we're going to ship our food halfway around the world then there's going to be waste. And whilst customers insist on perfect looking products, anything that's not looking perfect is going to be wasted. Waste is just too implicit in the whole system”, she says.
The Brussels based United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe - UNRIC provides information on UN activities to the countries of the region. It also provides liaison with institutions of the European Union in the field of information. Its outreach activities extend to all segments of society and joint campaigns, projects and events are organized with partners including the EU, governments, the media, NGOs, schools and local authorities.
United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe (UNRIC Brussels)
Residence Palace, Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat 155, Block C2,7th and 8th floor, Brussels 1040, Belgium
Tel.: +32 2 788 8484 / Fax: 32 2 788 8485