Living On the Excess
America is so rich that it's possible to make a living off of our trash. (You say wasteful, I say rich. It boils down to the same thing.) Madison's Capital Times published an article about the burgeoning art of dumpster diving.
So much is discarded, in fact, that it is possible to live almost entirely off of trash, or as New York dumpstering organizer and founding member of the Web site freegan.info Adam Weissman puts it, the excesses of capitalism. Weissman sustains himself almost exclusively by dumpstering, or as he refers to it, "urban foraging." Though he also trades items and gardens, the bulk of his sustenance is from garbage, he says in a phone interview.
He quotes Marx and talks about "opt[ing] out of the capitalist economic system." So, he's a bit of a nut. 'Cause, really, he'd be homeless and starving if it wasn't for the capitalist economic system that he' opting out of. Still, there is a lot of waste in a rich society. Some are using that waste to help others.
"The first time I saw it I was amazed and taken aback. There was more food than you've ever seen, just there. ... Sometimes it still hits you -- all this food is still good," says Spike Appel, frequent dumpster diver and chief organizer of the local chapter of Food Not Bombs, an "anarchist community project" that provides free vegetarian meals to the public.
Much of the food donated to Food Not Bombs is one step from the dumpster. This is not to say the produce, dips and baked goods are in any way spoiled. Ripe, organic produce is a hallmark of the meals provided by Food Not Bombs, as is the fact that they do not serve meat.
While the Food Not Bombs Web site advocates dumpstering as a way of obtaining food, the Madison chapter works with local businesses for donations. Food Not Bombs has an international following, and each chapter varies according to the resources in their community.
Interesting, no? Dumpstering is illegal. Many of the business that dump food, rather than donating it, do so out of fear of lawsuits and food safety regulations. The vast majority of that food is still perfectly safe. Why shouldn't we relax the regulations and remove the fear of lawsuits? Why not let that food be legally donated to the hungry rather than forcibly wasted?