My father was a dedicated scrounger, and he passed on his love of scrounging to me. He loved to take discarded items or find things on sale that nobody wanted and then make good use of them. Because he was handy, and I am not, he was perhaps a more successful scrounger than I am. But I have my ways of scrounging. One involves my husband, Clif, who is handy and often (reluctantly) helps with my scrounging ideas. Fortunately, many scrounged items are good as is, and they don’t need to be fixed or refurbished. The couch in our living room, purchased at a very low price from friends, is a testament to this. My daughter Shannon is an excellent scrounger as well, and thanks to her we have a “new” dishwasher scrounged from a coworker who was remodeling, which, I might add, is a totally foreign concept to a scrounger. Nevertheless, I am grateful to friends and acquaintances who remodel. It makes life much easier for those of us who scrounge.
However, as much as I like to scrounge, I have always drawn the line at dumpster diving, and, as far as I know, my father did, too. Somehow, pawing through trash and garbage to reclaim good items seems, well, wrong, and it makes me a little queasy to think about it. At the same time, I am fascinated by those who get most of what they eat and wear from dumpsters. (There is a whole subculture of dumpster divers, who do it as much for the principle as they do for saving money.) The scrounge in me loves the idea of using things that have been thrown away. If only you didn’t have to paw through rubbish to get to the good stuff. (I’m sure there is a lesson in this.)
So when the movie Dive! by Jeremy Seifert became available on Netflix’s instant view, I knew I had to see it. Dive! is exactly what it sounds like—a movie about dumpster diving, primarily outside of Trader Joe’s in Los Angeles, where the young filmmakers live. And what do Seifert and his friends get from that dumpster? Perfectly good fruit, ranging from bananas to lemons to strawberries; eggs, where one in a dozen has broken and therefore the other eleven, complete with the box, are thrown away; meat that is often just at its fresh date and sometimes even before, such as when Trader Joe’s closes for a holiday. (In one scene, a huge bag of individually-wrapped broilers is featured, with the sell-by date a couple of days away. ) In short, lots and lots of perfectly good food that should go to feeding people rather than being thrown in landfills. I’ve read about this, but I’ve never actually seen how much good food is thrown away, and in this case, “seeing,” albeit via a movie, really makes quite an impression. Holy guacamole, as my daughter Dee might say.
The movie goes beyond the personal to focus on hunger and waste, and it even includes a bit of history that illustrates how, as a country, we weren’t always so wasteful with our food. (When we grew or made much of what we ate, we were far more careful.) For a “small” film that runs for a little over 50 minutes, Dive! is well-made and informative. Jeremy Seifert, following in the footsteps of Michael Moore, is an engaging narrator as he rummages through dumpsters and tries to get CEOs from Trader Joe’s to talk to him. (I don’t think I’m giving too much away by revealing that he doesn’t have much luck with those CEOs.)
Taken from the movie’s website, here are a few facts, which should make everyone think: “Every year in America we throw away 96 billion pounds of food; one half of all food prepared in the US and Europe never gets eaten; and the Department of Agriculture estimated in 1996 that recovering just 5 percent of the food that is wasted could feed four million people a day; recovering 25 percent would feed 20 million people. Today we recover less than 2.5 percent.”
Clearly, Trader Joe’s isn’t the only one responsible for all the food that is wasted. We all are.
Seeing Dive! made me reconsider my squeamish position about dumpsters. Would I eat a broiler, with the fresh date a couple of days away, gleaned from a dumpster? You know, I just might.