Dumpster diving, finding food when prices are rising

27 July 2022

Inflation is back. Prices are rising — sharply in some cases — adding to the cost of living. My go-to — highly anecdotal of course — inflation indicator is the price of a large sized takeaway cappuccino. While rises in the price of coffee have been on the cards for some time, I paid A$5.20 for a cup in Kogarah, a southern suburb of Sydney the other week, the first time I’ve seen the cost exceed five dollars.

But the price of household staples, not just coffee, have also been rising steadily in recent months, imposing financial hardship on many people. Despite this, some Australian supermarkets are engaging in what is surely the unconscionable practice of disposing of food products before their use by date, or fruit and vegetables that simply don’t look saleable, without even offering them at a reduced price beforehand.

But savvy consumers, including Sydneysider Brenden Rikihana, are countering this wasteful process by taking to dumpster diving. That is, going around to the dumpster bin area at a supermarket, and sifting through them for food that is still safe to eat. And if Rikihana’s Facebook page is anything to go by, dumpster divers are truly spoilt for choice at the moment. In fact Rikihana collects so much usable food, he gives a lot away to others.

Dumpster diving can’t be without its hazards. There’s obviously a danger to sifting through waste bins. Broken glass, other sharp objects, not to mention who knows exactly what’s been put in the dumpster. Then there’s the legalities. Some of the bins are probably on private property, so trespass may be a factor. I doubt few people rummage through dumpsters out of choice though. And that’s the problem at the moment. For many it’s not about choice, it’s about necessity.