Day 31: “Dumpster Diving” Saving Wasted Food

Day 31:

Last night I did a little bit of of “dumpster diving” and saved some food from being sent to the landfill. Ok, it wasn’t really a dumpster dive. It was more like picking through trash. The store that I went to keeps their garbage in bags on the sidewalk.

My goal isn’t to be some radical hippie that’s sticking it to the system.
The purpose of the dive wasn’t to just get some free food, though that was a perk. I did get almost 2 dozen usable bananas.

What I really wanted to do was expose the massive amount of food waste that’s generated on a daily basis, the effects of it and what we can do about it.

There were about a dozen or so fully packed garbage bags on the sidewalk. I went through 2-3 of them and walked away with 2 (reusable) shopping bags filled with produce, mostly bananas because they were the most usable.

The other fruits and vegetables were slightly blemished, but could be salvaged for consumption or used in some way. They definitely didn’t need to be sent to the landfills.

The bananas were imported from Peru, sat on a shelf for a few days, tossed into the trash, then are going to sit in the landfill for years. Think about the environmental impact of the shipping and then sitting in the landfill.

One of the biggest misconceptions about food is that it composts in landfills. Not true. Food does not breakdown in landfills. It winds up producing harmful CO2 and methane gases. Also if it does biodegrade in the landfill, it’s not useful compost. (Courtesy of Planet Green).

Here’s some facts about food waste in the United States from a CNN post “All About: Food waste”

  • 5 percent of American’s leftovers could feed 4 million people for 1 day
  • Disposing of food waste costs the U.S. $1 billion a year
  • Rotting food releases methane, a more potent greenhouse gas than CO2
  • Methane can be harnessed to create clean energy for heat, light and fuel
  • Ok, I’ve pointed out a bunch of problems and one “solution”, but don’t want to or expect any of you to regularly pick through trash.

    So here’s what can be done. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a PDF titled, “Putting Surplus Food To Good Use: A How-to Guide for Food Service Providers.”

    It helps to outline a food waste reduction and recovery program for food service providers, highlighting the economical and environmental benefits.

    Talk to your local food service provider and see if they are aware of these benefits. Bring a printout of the sheet to give to them.

    If they still generate all the food waste, I’d find a new place to buy my food from because I don’t want to support such a business.

    What did I do with the food that I saved? I made a bunch of banana fruit leathers, banana cream and banana frozen yogurt. Also took two big bags of food scraps to the local compost.

    Day 31: Dumpster Diving - Saving Wasted Food Dumpster Diving - 12 Bags Filled with Food Waste Dumpster Diving - Bag filled with food waste. Dumpster Diving - What I was able to salvage. Dumpster Diving - Me and my bounty.

    What was your simple green act for the day?

  • Accidental friend
    People, U all need to see We Feed the World [2004] documentary
    to understand trends being dictated from above that ask to be opposed:

  • Another good tip to save/conserve food - keep a freezer bag on hand in your freezer. throw bits of fruit/veg that you have left over, bruised, forgot in fridge etc, all the little pieces go in the bag in freezer, when your juicing bring it out throw it in.
  • Better idea. I need some idea to start. But I have less to do. Thanks
  • Huh?
  • hahahah! Love it!
  • Thanks. I'd get tons of bananas from that spot.
  • I Dumpster Dive at least twice a month. We still need to go to the store to get the extras but the foods that are found in the dumpster are things like fruits and veggies, things you have to pick through. Sometimes I will come across some kind of meet that still looks and smells good. Living in a primitive community for a while I learned just how long meat can stay good without refrigeration. You do need to cook all your meat very well, and always rinse off very well after dumpster diving. Mother Dumpster Provides. Come visit
    and read a lot more about the art and many other things going on in the world of green and taking the opportunity. Good Life
  • Nice. I haven't been in a while because it's too damned cold, but since I started I refuse to pay for bananas anymore.
  • BowersGauthierLarose
    That would make alot of banana bread, such a waste. When we really took notice, that we were being wasteful with food, we tried a few different things , but the food just kept going bad, so we analyzed what the kidz liked and disliked, analyzed exactly what was wasted, it seemed to be all stuff we all liked..?... so we decided to cut our spending, not buy as much, and voila. problem solved... just meant an extra trip to the market
  • Nice. That can probably be done for so many things beyond food to help cut wate and budget as well. Good stuff.
  • Britt
    Bananas decompose in 3-5 weeks, not several years.
  • In a landfill? Or when mixed with other compostable materials?

    Check the Planet Green and CNN articles referenced in the post.
  • Penn & Teller did a whole show on recycling on their Bullshit series, and the US is apparently one up on the UK in that it actually captures the methane from the landfil sites for use in power generation. The whole show was up on You Tube - definately worth the watch IMHO if you can find it.
  • Will look for it. Did a quick search and couldn't find it. Will continue to look though.
  • Calseolaius
    YO Mike! You're a brave man to be dumpster diving in curbside black bags in NY... never know what's in those nasty smelly things... well, I guess now we do... perfectly edible/compostible food.

    Here's my deal: We are like a zillion light years behind cities like San Francisco that actually have curbside composting! I mean, they have these skinny little green garbage cans where you dump a bunch of compostable food waste, the garbage truck comes around and takes it to an industrial compost site (I assume).

    Does Bloomberg really think his 1000 bullshit trees are actually a sustainable solution to the waste problem, one of the major money drainers on the city? It's maddening.

    Anyway, I've set up a composting program in my building here in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Anyone who lives here doesn't have to transport their food scraps too far... they just leave them in a sealed quart container in front of my door and I dump them in my compost bin in the back yard. By next spring I'll have enough plant superfood to grow yet another bushel of fresh, local, organic veggies to share with my friends and neighbors who helped.

    We should talk sometime! Here's my site ( which is a little news feature for CBS. Would love to connect with other New Yorkers who are doing little things to make this city a LOT more livable.

  • That's awesome Rich. I just have a small compost pail in my kitchen for my own food scraps. The rest I bring to the community compost. Let's definitely meet up.
  • Check out our friends at They connect their local gardeners with food pantries close by. This would be perfect for your grocery store! If they can find a local food pantry and get connected, they get a tax break for the donation and people get fresh fruit. Score!
  • Another tip to avoid wasting food:
    U can find recipes using as ingredients things u usually put in the trash, like banana peel and egg shells. On internet its probably not hard to find them.
    While I was doing voluntary work w/ kids in brazil, some of my friends were teaching their mothers how to cook a really nice pie w/ banana peel. I will try to get that recipe for u (and me too! how could I forget that?)
  • Nice. Please do. Let me know when you find it.
  • hey! Give me your email so I can send u the recipes. My friend send me about 6 recipes and I just translated them to english.
  • never mind... I found it! hehe
  • Cool. Awaiting the email.
  • I already send it. If u dont find it in your inbox, maybe u should take a look in the trash! Sometimes things go there by mistake! ;)

  • Name
    Awesome post! We always like to hear stories like this - an everyday citizen working towards a better world. Identifying the opportunities to stop the waste. Pass this calculator along to your grocer, it might help them track and reduce their waste:

    Love food, hate waste.
  • Thanks for the link. I'll take a look at it. Need to figure out what the next steps are on providing more solutions to this problem.
  • dawnkelly
    For those of us who also eat cooked foods---I saw a bunch more stuff that was still very usable!

    Funny-- our blog posts today are the equivalent of *showing up at work dressed basically the same*. lol
  • That's just one small store. Imagine this on a much larger and grander scale. Crazy.
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