Dumpster Diving in Adelaide

Posted: January 21, 2015 in Sustainability
Tags: ,

During my winter break I will add a few non-cycling posts on some thoughts and experiences. I will continue the cycle from Holland to Australia in March 2015.

‘Smell this,’ whispers Jeremy, his head and light peering through the dark into the open skip. ‘Bleach. Someone doesn’t want us to take this.’ The pile from the bakery, sitting in the skip was doused with bleach. Some people think, if I don’t want it – you’re not getting it either. There is so much waste, but putting it to good use, I feel like a fugitive. My ears are perked up and my eyes are sharp, concentrating on the moment – night-time foraging in the rubbish bins of supermarkets in Adelaide.

Its called Dumpster Diving – salvaging food from rubbish thrown out at supermarkets, fruit markets and bakers. I first heard about it in Dubrovnik when Clement told about cycling 3000km through France without money. Florian has done it on his trip from Germany to Australia. In Adelaide I added the dumpster diving badge to my qualifications.

In the dead of the night we work. Behind the supermarkets. The bikes are parked. Head torches on. Watch for people. Listen. Be alert. Are the supermarket workers still there? Is security passing? Is that truck the rubbish truck coming to take away our booty?

Jeremy, our dumpster teacher opens up the skip. A faint smell wafts up, of everything, of rubbish. And then we sift in the dark, lit by the light of our head-torches. Moving boxes of empty CD covers. An old watermelon seeping its juice. A few leaves of old cabbage. Someone adjusts the torch to better see inside the skip. Then an arm is thrust down deep. Up comes a milk container. Use-by date – tomorrow. He touches it to his cheek. Still cold. Still sealed. Who wants it? And then another. Then an iced coffee. A carton of milk. It is wet. A drop of white collects in the bottom corner. Jeremy squeezes it. It’s good. The milk is from somewhere else. The more we look, the more we find. A stash of milk to satisfy us all. And all not passed its use-by date.

Dumpster Diving in Adelaide

Dumpster Diving in Adelaide

In another skip we find thick paper bags full of pastries from the bakery. Cinnamon scrolls, buns, croissants, cakes. We find bottles of orange juice, still cold. This is all stuff that couldn’t be sold. This is all good food. And it’s all going to waste.

I try to decide what I think of this. Society is wasteful – mountains of food are grown just to be thrown away. I think it is morally good to take this food and use it – without paying for it. But other people have paid for this, I hear you say. Other people have worked, and I just take the spoils of their toils. The supermarket is losing paying customers to dumper divers. Why pay for it, when you can get it for free? – just wait until closing time. There are lots of conflicting thoughts that go through my mind. I think that it is good there are dumpster divers. I am glad I have tried it. Although, I must admit, I would rather buy the food off the shelf. I am lucky enough to have the money to have the choice.

  1. cyclerist says:

    And what would you all do if a security guy shows up?Offer him some? 🙂

  2. We need some help! We are looking for any items that might be able to be put into Youth Homelessness packs e.g. toothpaste, sanitary items, toothbrushes, non-perishables, tissues etc. Do you guys come across anything like this in your travels? The major supermarket chains don’t show much interest.

    • Ammy says:


      in my personal adelaide dumpster diving experience we find a lot of canned goods etc we would be happy to share with you, feel free to contact me if you want to know more!

      ammy 🙂

      • That’s great Ammy! I’m sorry I can’t help myself as I’m cycling in Turkey. Good luck!

      • Claire says:

        Hi Ammy,

        I was until recently dumpster diving behind my local Foodland, but they decided to douse everything in the bins with bleach and then lock the bins. I now have found another two sites, but they are not yielding as much as I used to get from the old Foodland site. I was wondering if you had any info on sites in the NORTHERN AND OUTER NORTHERN AREAS OF ADELAIDE, that I might end up getting more produce from. I am currently unemployed and not getting as much as I used to from my old (Foodland) site, is really hitting me hard. Prior to my old site going nasty pasty on me, I was collecting 85% of my pets food (I have a tribe of rescue cats and one 25 kg dog) and around 60% of my own food through this site. (I was also regularly getting toiletries and other discarded sundries as well) from this one site.

        I live outside of Adelaide, so its not cost effective for me to travel to sites that are further than Elizabeth/Salisbury if one is heading towards Adelaide. I drive so there are no issues in getting around though.
        Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Any assistance you can provide will be kept confidential etc. I am only trying to survive in VERY tough times.

      • Hi Claire. I wish you all the best. Unfortunately I can’t help you. I don’t live in Adelaide, and only went dumpster diving once in the eastern suburbs. On my dumpster dive I also came across supermarkets that doused everything in chlorine. It is such a waste of food.

        Good luck!

  3. Jessica says:

    Hey there, how did you meet Jeremy? Does he take people on tours of this sort of thing? I’d love to go on one but really haven’t found any Adelaide-resources on the matter to date..

    • Hi there. I met Jeremy through a friend, but don’t have his contact details any more. I’m afraid you’ll have to try by asking around. Good luck!

  4. ira zettler says:

    I think the amount of waste coming out of our supermarkets is absolutely disgraceful. Good on all the dumpster divers out there!

  5. […] China. We have both covered about 27000km. So many stories to tell. Clement, my inspiration to try dumpster diving in Adelaide, lives on almost no money each day. I am going to try to follow along. When all is quiet, Clement […]

  6. Heidi says:

    If Claire still needs help, there are other ways to get free food regularly for those in need. In Adelaide there are groups that legitimately rescue food that won’t be sold and distribute it through open houses. Mostly in Northern suburbs. You need to connect with the groups via Facebook. One group is called Heart & Soul Food Assistance.

  7. Claire says:

    Hi Heidi,

    i have been to some of the charities that hand out free food and most have strict criteria on who can’t and can access their services (such as how many times a month/year you can apply and whether or not you live in or around the LSA (local service area) Finally, the food they give away is often way past its use by date. I get better and fresher produce out of bins thank you very much.

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