Alex Van Buren recently wrote an article titled “Should Dumpster Divers be Arrested?” after three men in England were charged under a section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act for taking about $55 worth of garbage from a market. As of right now in the US, it is legal to dumpster dive as long as one does not violate trespassing laws. Many people in this country, whether well-off or poor, get the majority of their meals from grocery store or restaurant’s dumpsters which are filled with unsellable, but still edible, food items.
Van Buren relays several outsiders’ opinions on this issue, one being magazine editor Sarah Mirk who responded by asking: “…who are they really hurting with [this]? Is somebody else gonna use that trash? Who’s the victim of that crime?” Mirk makes a very valid point. The owners of these restaurants and stores choose to get rid of items they deem unprofitable. Whether it is because the expiration has passed, the packaging was unacceptable, or anything along those lines, the bottom line is that they are throwing away what another might deem perfectly good food products. There’s absolutely no harm done; there’s simply a large group of people who see an excellent opportunity to save money and they take it.
I think if someone wants to dig through trash and get a meal for free, then they should be allowed that freedom. Many in the United States (primarily business owners) want dumpster diving to be illegal because their own money was spent on whatever has been thrown away and they think people should not just get something for free that wasn’t freely given to them. This seems like a narrow-minded and somewhat selfish view to me. If restaurant and store owners don’t want people getting food from their garbage, maybe they should donate their leftover food to places that will provide it to those who need it. They might as well put something that would normally be completely wasted into good use. The reality of this situation is that money is literally being thrown away every day, so if there’s an opportunity to use that money to benefit another and their needs, it should be acted upon.