Dumpster Diving and the Culture of Waste in America


Dumpster Diving and the Culture of Waste in America

In this short documentary film, Katharina Boll explores the underground world of “Dumpster Diving.” The film touches on the issue of waste in our society and how grocery stores in America mismanage their unused inventory. Through her carefully crafted narrative, Boll shines a light on the characters who brave Santa Barbara’s back alleys in search of their next meal.

“We don’t waste food!” Mack U. firmly declares as he’s stands in the midst of a produce dumpster in Santa Barbara.

But unfortunately, we do. According to a 2012 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), up to 40% of food is wasted every year in the U.S. This waste occurs on all levels, including at the farm, in grocery stores, in restaurants and even in households. Shockingly 25% of food is wasted by American families.

Where does all the wasted food end up? In landfills. And what’s worse- wasted organic food produces methane, one of the worst greenhouse gasses. These methane emissions add up to 25% of all U.S. methane emissions.

How does dumpster diving tie into this equation? Dumpster diving is the art of rummaging through trash cans and dumpsters to reuse found objects and food items. Most commonly, dumpster diving is part of the “Freeganism” lifestyle, which could be considered an anti-consumerist mindset and an environmentally conscious way of life. The goal is to reuse everything possible while only purchasing the bare necessities.

Not all dumpster divers consider themselves part of the “Freeganism” lifestyle, yet they often believe in the fundamentals of the practice. Frankly, those fundamentals could be easily taken on by all of us.

We have heard this multiple times: “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” We don’t all have to jump into dumpsters to be more environmentally conscious. But reducing our water, our plastic and paper use, while consciously being aware of our food in our fridges, less waste will end up in our landfills.

If we use reusable glass bottles and shopping bags, less waste will go to the landfills. Finally, if we do accumulate trash, we should make sure to separate recyclables from non-recyclables, again to reduce our waste.


About Author

Katharina Boll

Katharina Boll, a German native, has lived in Santa Barbara, CA, for almost four years now and is a senior in Liberal Studies and Communication at Antioch University. She has moved around a few times, from Germany to France to the United States. She has always been restless and eager to travel and has built up a curiosity for different cultures and languages. Sewing and recycling clothes are another hobby of hers. She encourages open-mindedness and free thinking, and advocates human rights in any aspect. Her short documentary “A New Wave of Hunter-Gatherers” has won special recognitions at Antioch University Santa Barbara, in which Katharina shed light on the atrocious food waste in our society.

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