The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Discovering the Depth in Dumpster-Diving

3 min read


You’re walking down a relatively busy, commercialized street. You make that automatic glance down the oncoming alley-way only to see several individuals rummaging nonchalantly through a dumpster, most likely for food.
You turn away disgusted and continue tromping down the sidewalk toward your destination.  “Stupid bum,” you think to yourself.  “Get a job and stop being so lazy.”
Whoah there. Before coming to this conclusion, take this into consideration:
When someone mentions counter-culture, the 1970s comes to mind: the birth of punk rock through Iggy Pop and the Stooges, New York Dolls, The Ramones, etc.  The popular belief today is that “punk is dead” and all that is left to answer for it is a generation of overly made-up Hot Topic/Myspace brats who might think that Black Flag, Minor Threat, and Circle Jerks are possible titles for the upcoming My Chemical Romance album.
However, this is not so.  If you look beyond all of those fake distractions, punk, and hardcore for that matter, is still very much alive and kicking. Not to mention punching, yelling, breaking things, and pissing off the police.
One of the newest trends in today’s counter-culture is the phenomenon of “dumpster diving.”
When I last visited my hometown of Richmond, Virginia, I was lucky enough one night to catch some kids my age in the act of robbing a dumpster of its edible and useful contents.  These particular kids had hopped a train from the Eastern Shore and were preparing to travel up north, their next destination being Philadelphia.
Lying out before them as we conversed was a smorgasbord of treats.  Dried apricots, pecans, and rice abounded. Any damaged packaging or mishandling of products at a grocery store can result in their immediate disposal from the premises, no matter how fresh the product may be.
Fascinated by stories of their travels and their resourcefulness, I accompanied them on the roof of a local chain bakery whose policy includes throwing away all unsold bread from that day in large, clean trash bags.  With a whole loaf of wheat bread under each arm, I took in some of my favorite views of my city and discussed life with my newfound feast-mates.
These three kids were getting around for free and for no other reason than to enjoy the adventure of their young lives together.  They wanted to prove to themselves that they could live comfortably and happily without any of the domestic pleasantries that we so often take for granted.
An aliased writer of a Punk/D.I.Y. (Do It Yourself) online zine entitled Trasher Zine describes dumpster diving as “the ability to gather the food that you need for free from other’s wastefulness” (from the article entitled “How to Live Rent Free” from the November 2006 issue. )
A growing scene of intentionally squatting youngsters can probably be found in an alleyway near you.  No, my friend, the dumpsters are no longer reserved for the bearded man with army fatigues and a backpack bugging you for change on the street corner.

Follow me on Twitter