Dumpster Diving Down Under

Dumpster diving, or “skip dipping” as it is known as in Australia, is a controversial practice that brings out strong opinions.

I think it’s awesome, but not everyone agrees.

As my best friend commented to me when I started doing it – “gross!”

Why do it?

Recently, I saw a viral post on Facebook showing pictures someone had taken of the inside of a Coles skip, filled with packaged food, fresh food, drinks and all manner of things. Almost all were within the use by date.

Having seen poverty first hand myself, I was more than a bit horrified. Why the hell does so much go to waste?

I wondered what I could do about it. I had heard of dumpster diving before and had been interested in it previously but had never committed to try it.

My interest rekindled, I did a bit more research. It didn’t look that hard, as long as you don’t care what people think, which I tend not to.

Other than reduce wastage, it would save me money, surely. Our household expenses can be pretty high, so I was definitely keen to save some cash.

What the hell, I thought. Let’s give it a go.

My first foray was less than successful

Oh boy, was it bad.

First mistake: I went on foot, instead of taking my bike. Cue extremely sore feet, and a diminished Myki balance.

Second mistake: I failed to check online whether the places I wanted to dive actually were still there.

Third mistake: I went during the day.

Fourth mistake: I chose my locations based on Coles/Woolies stores, which to my dismay I learned are often either locked or patrolled by employees coming in and out of the supermarket.

All in all, I visited four suburbs over five hours in the inner east and inner south east, and came home empty handed. My partner almost cracked a rib laughing at me when I walked in the door.

But then I found the good spots, and a tonne of bread

Dumpster diving

Beautiful gourmet olive loaves from a fancy bakery, my first ever decent dumpster diving find 🙂

The next day, I picked another reputable dive (a bakery in a wealthy inner suburb) and went a bit later in the day. I rode my bike there in time for their closing time – 6pm. I sat across the road and watched like a creep.

At 6pm, they closed. They cleaned for about 45 minutes. They took pastries, loaves of bread and other unsold items off the shelves and put them straight into black garbage bags, which were then tied and went into a wheelie bin. At 7, that bin was brought out front, and all the employees went home.

After all this planning and waiting, I was now kind of nervous. The street was full of fancy restaurants with elderly rich people dining in them. Someone was going to see me. Would they think I was homeless?

I loitered next to the bin for about 10 minutes, these anxieties running through my mind. Eventually I thought stuff it, and dived in. What I found surpassed even my expectations. Loaves and loaves and loaves of gourmet bread, probably at least 20 or 30. Enough bread for six months. Having found something I wanted, I grabbed a few, shoved them in my backpack, and bailed.

The feeling of elation as I rode away was unexpected. I felt good about what I had done. I felt I’d helped reduce wastage, had put my money where my mouth was, and had saved a few bucks as well! I was immediately hooked.

Next I ventured to the slightly grubbier realm of diving for fruits and vegetables

The next logical step was the slightly dirtier but all the more rewarding diving for fruits and veggies. For this, I hit up the most reputable diving location in Melbourne – the Queen Vic Market. I had heard if you go on a Tuesday or Thursday between 2 and 4pm, you’ll find all the unsold fruits and veggies from that day. Allegedly, if you go after 4pm you may miss out as the rubbish trucks will have come and taken the bins away.

I got there at about 2:30, and started going through the bins up and down the fruit and veggie aisles. To my surprise, none of the stall workers cared or even looked at me. It seemed what I was doing was perfectly normal.

What’s more, I wasn’t the only one! A few people in their 40s or 50s were picking through the bins as well. One woman in her 80s was going through the bin beside me and informed me that I look like a medical student she knows. I assured her I wasn’t. It was all quite random, but a good experience.

As I rode and only had one big backpack with me, I had to be selective. My haul in the end consisted of a rockmelon, five mangoes, four eggplants, two bunches of spring onions, five tomatoes, shitake mushrooms and about 15 apples. All were in perfect condition – after all, they had all been for sale that same day, only a couple of hours earlier.

Dumpster diving

Fruit and veg haul from the Vic Market

Start with the Melbourne Dumpster Diving Map

If you’re thinking about giving it a go, the proverbial map is a great place to begin. I don’t know who started it, but it’s gold.

This map is the blueprint for dumpster diving in Melbourne. It’s where I found my first few locations. There’s probably a heap of decent dives that aren’t on here, but I’ve never had to bother finding any because this map provides all the info you need.

Admittedly, some of the dive spots are a little out of date. For example, I went to Glick’s Elsternwick on the advice of the map only to find it is permanently closed. However, since anyone can edit the map, I went and did my bit for the Melbourne diving community and added this info.

Some of the location descriptions even give you tips on time of day and where exactly to go.

Be prepared to have people give you shit

People are confronted by those who dare to disrupt the hamster wheel of modern capitalism. When diving, you may get people asking you if you’re “doing it tough.” Say no, it’s funny to watch their reactions.

People are confronted by those who dare to disrupt the hamster wheel of modern capitalism.Click To Tweet

Also, there’s always the chance your friends and relatives won’t get why you’re choosing to literally eat from a bin. But I’ve found once I explain the environmental and financial logic behind my decision, most people really come around to the idea.

Ultimately, as long as we are hygienic about it, reducing wastage can only be a good thing.

If we could reduce waste, eat for free and damn the man at the same time, why wouldn’t we?

If we could reduce waste, eat for free and damn the man at the same time, why wouldn't we?Click To Tweet

Do you have experience dumpster diving? Comment and share!