Dumpster divers never skip a feed

16:00, Dec 20 2013
Dumpster diving
BOTTOMS UP: Dumpster diving is not confined to New Zealand: Benjamin Schmitt, a supporter of the foodsharing movement searches food in a dumpster behind a supermarket in Berlin.

Police dog handlers heard noises coming from behind Pak'n Save supermarket in Blenheim just before 11pm.

They went to inspect.

Six young men were caught in the act.

Their crime? Dumpster diving.

The men from China, France, Germany and the Czech Republic, all in their 20s, were let off the hook.

An online poll on press.co.nz asking "Should dumpster diving be illegal?" attracted more than 1000 votes.


More than 80 per cent said supermarkets should give expired food away. The rest said it was theft and disgusting.

The online comments flowed in.

"The bins were locked! It's theft."

"Why are these young men being arrested for eating rubbish?"

Christchurch dumpster diver Jack, who declined to give his surname, does not see what the big deal is.

The 27-year-old targets supermarkets and wholesalers at night - past 11pm. Sometimes the bins are locked, guarded and fenced. Sometimes not.

"Every supermarket is different. A lock is pretty good at stopping me."

A haul can include anything from packaged coffee grinds to fresh vegetables. Friends in Wellington once scored about $400 of cheese.

Jack is not necessarily a food activist. He is not necessarily a waste-reduction eco-warrior. He is not desperately short of cash.

"If there is food there, you might as well eat it. It just makes sense to me," he says.

Kaibosh Food Rescue, in Wellington, collaborates with food retailers and producers to rescue surplus food. It is good enough to eat, but not good enough to sell. The food is given to charity organisations.

General manager Matt Dagger says it is a good alternative to dumpster diving. Supermarkets are "terrified" people will get sick from eating dumpster food, he says.

0800 Hungry collects fresh produce from more than a dozen Countdown stores in Christchurch to redistribute through its food bank.

Countdown spokeswoman Kate Porter says its policy is to donate perishables and grocery items that are still fit for consumption to community partners.

"We don't condone people taking food from our bins. If food has been dumped, it is there for a reason. Food safety cannot be guaranteed and sometimes even recalled or withdrawn products end up in the bin. It's also considered theft or sometimes even vandalism."

Christchurch barista Macey Berry used to dumpster dive in Wellington. The 21-year-old's main targets were a bagel shop and a gourmet bread shop.

"I was s*** broke. It is the only way I survived. The bread shop was actually quite good about it. They would put their rubbish in an easily-accessible place. They knew people were doing it."

Berry is in two minds about the men getting arrested in Blenheim.

"Half of me is like, ‘I understand', because it is illegal. It's not our property to trespass on and steal from. But on the other side, it's completely ridiculous, because . . . it's rubbish."

The Press