Supermarkets, we all know them, we all use them, yet very few of us ever question the processes behind them. In a city like Amsterdam, large supermarkets are one of the main suppliers for our daily food. Whenever we step through the glass sliding doors to buy our groceries, the shelves are full and stocked with everything we desire. But behind the constant availability of fresh foods lurks a dark secret. More than 40% of the world’s produced foods ends up in the garbage can instead of on our plates.
About Dumpster Diving
Dumpster Diving developed as a form of protest against excess production and food waste. It is the practice of searching garbage that has been put out on the streets in containers, dumpsters, etc for valuable and still usable items, especially food that is still edible.
It is a culture that has many faces, and likewise is known under many names: dumpster diving, skipping, binning, skip-raiding, and the list goes on. While dumpster diving is the most widely adopted term, skipping carries a more political connotation. It is part of the ‘Freeganism’-movement that carries the ideology of a minimal consumption of resources. Skipping is seen as a political act of radically boycotting a capitalist economic system that is solely based on the pursuit of profit. The disregard of ethical and environmental dilemmas that arise out of consumerism serve as a motivation for many to join the movement.
Dumpster dive in Amsterdam: Difficult or not?
Anyone who has ever tried to dumpster dive in Amsterdam will probably tell you that it isn’t the easiest challenge to take on. Apart from the social stigma, many countries such as Germany, the Netherlands and the UK have regulations that place dumpster diving in a legal gray zone or classify it as straight up illegal.
In the Netherlands, according to law, trash is considered a possession and therefore, taking away a part of that trash can be considered theft. Likewise, the disposed-off food in the containers belongs to the supermarket until it is picked up and then becomes possession of the waste management company. While taking products from open containers is, in theory, not punishable, in practice getting caught both taking from open and locked containers will often result in fines.
The legal side however isn’t the biggest obstacle in the way of activists when it comes to dumpster diving. Though in a legal gray zone, it is rare that people get caught or awarded fines. In reality, the difficulty of dumpster diving in Amsterdam comes down to one, very simple, and physical factor: most containers are firmly locked and not accessible for the public.
Preventing food waste
Despite all the difficulty of accessing the containers of supermarkets, there are other ways in which one can get active in preventing food waste. For those of you eager to get involved, here are a few insiders tips on where to get started:
Taste before you waste is a foundation based in Amsterdam whose mission it is to “reduce consumer food waste by providing citizens with the knowledge and opportunity for responsible and waste-free consumption”. They regularly organize dinners, events, workshops and markets that are centred all around raising awareness about food waste and how to tackle it. For more information, visit their website.
Guerilla Kitchen is an Amsterdam-based community project that fights food waste by collecting food donations from different supermarkets in the city and redistributing the food to people who could otherwise not afford it. They organize weekly cooking sessions and their “Free Supermarket” that are open for anyone to attend. For more information and regular updates, you can follow their Facebook page.
While many of the larger supermarket chains like Albert Heijn and Jumbo refuse to support the dumpster diving movement, local markets and smaller independent stores are often willing to give away food they cannot sell anymore. As a rule of thumb, ask away, and in the best case you will end up saving some goods from being wasted. In the worst case, you will be told that you won’t be given any food.
Last Update: Friday, Sept. 28, 2018, at 4:23pm.
- Reporter (Fall 2018)