Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An Accepted Collective Insanity

Last night, Eric and I decided to try some new territory in our dumpster diving adventures; we went for a couple of spots that had been mentioned to us as having a tendency to be locked. It turns out that these two stores had locked fences, but open dumpsters. And thankfully, they were an easy hop, at least for an enthusiastic Freegan couple with a penchant for climbing things.

The resulting haul was huge (click the pics for a huge-er peek), and mostly from one of the two grocery retailers we checked out. The abundance was overwhelming; my first tendency is to yell, "Score!!!". But I soon realized how the whole thing was equal parts exciting and mentally devastating. The whole time we were cleaning, arranging and photographing the food, I kept saying, "This is insane."

For me, just the sheer waste was a sign of the craziness of our society and the ineffectiveness of our economic system. There was probably around 80 pounds (if not more) of perfectly edible meat (as well as a lot of of beautiful fruit and chesses): well packaged and still-cold packs of boneless, skinless chicken breasts, fully cooked smoked salmon, thinly sliced beef sirloin and two whole chickens. Each little pack (usually around a pound or two or three of meat, my guess) was priced around $10. Their "crime"? (As my mother would say.) They were expiring that day or the next. Now, an expiration date is a suggestion, not a ticking clock on a rotting time-bomb. Why throw away perfectly good meat that could have been given away (and which will now, thankfully, be given away) ? It is likely that this particular store was overstocked and/or that meat sales are particularly down at this point in time. Meat that is close to the "suggestion date" is not likely to be bought by picky consumers and therefore, is not profitable. Better make room for fresher, more "in-demand" product!

The second insanity is the state of mind promoted by a consumer- (and profit-) driven system. A state of mind that says the locking up of and barbed-wire protection of trash (albeit perfectly edible trash) is an acceptable practice just doesn't make sense! It is such an unhealthy sign of the state of things that we have to sneak around like little kids breaking into a toy store just to liberate food that belongs to the people of this planet. I have literally had management tell me before (not anytime recently, thankfully) that I was "stealing [their] garbage". What?!? 1. You've thrown it away as an unwanted possession; 2. Food is a shared necessity that should be freely available to those with the need for it; 3. Waste is a costly, dangerous and pointless thing! We should make use of it as best we can. Try telling that to well-trained employee of a mega-corporation. You'd be better off cooperating and moving on to try your luck somewhere else. Some people don't want to change their minds.

Enjoy this well done video of my friend Ashwyn showing off the insanity to an Australian nightly news reporter.


  1. Yes, I completely agree! I would recommend the related video, "The Story of Stuff" - The Story of Stuff is a great 20-minute documentary which exposes the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues, and calls us together to create a more sustainable and just world.

  2. I agree with you about the insanity of it all but here's the thing -- if a store throws something away because it's reached the "expired date" they're following what the manufacturer of that item has told them. My husband works in the food industry and they do numerous tests on product to come up with safe time limits. They have to go with an average because food gets handled differently at each location. When the store throws that food away they're locking it up because if they don't, and someone eats it (even out of the stores garbage dump), if that person gets sick they could come back and sue the store. And let me assure you, as crazy as that sounds, it happens all the time. Common sense would tell you that if something is thrown away then the original owner should no longer be responsible, but that's not how it works because common sense is not common.
    Here's a perplexing scenario, or it was to me, about how things aren't always what they seem. I had a piece of property that had an old shed on it that was a complete eyesore. I paid a man to tear it down. Instead of tearing it down he kept the money and gave the building to his friend to move. The friend just happened to live next door to me and moved the damn eyesore right next to my house. To me that wasn't right..... I paid to have it torn down because it was mine and I hated the way it looked. Since I hated the way it looked I sure didn't want it right outside the window of my house. Now, just casually glancing at what went on -- a building that the original owner didn't want going to someone who wanted it seems like the right thing -- but the way it played out seemed like the wrong thing. Basically what happened is I paid to have an eyesore moved to my house, if I'd wanted that to happen I could have done it for free. Anyway, I'm just trying to point out that it's virtually impossible to see things from the viewpoint of all involved and things are always more complicated than they seem.

  3. Good for you!! We all enjoyed the smoked salmon; it was delicious!

    Thank you for your insight and idealism!!

  4. I'm so glad that there are other like-minded individuals out there! Im gald I found your blog; it cant just be that I'm crazy! Its strange reading about your experiences that are so similar to mine on the other side of the country. It seems like more work on your end, with fences and locks an what not.. Ill stay tuned in. Keep up the good work!