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Sturdy gloves are helpful for keeping your hands from getting too filthy
Natalie Abel

Trash Talkin’

Inside Santa Fe’s dumpster-diving scene

May 7, 2013, 12:00 am

For many, digging through a dumpster for groceries doesn’t sound too appetizing. But for two Santa Fe college students, dumpster-diving has become a routine adventure. What keeps them in your trash week after week? Trying to live on a college budget along with distaste for the way our society wastes food. Both students agreed to discuss local dumpster-diving anonymously, so as to avoid possible repercussions from their occasional trespasses.
What would you say to someone who wants to try dumpster diving?
Nancy: [Wear] dumpster friendly clothes—clothes that you’re not afraid to get dirty, maybe waterproof shoes. Gloves are really nice. You might want a flashlight or a headlamp. You just have to be really willing to get dirty; you’re gonna wanna climb in there and rip open bags. You can’t really be timid about it, you just have to climb in and open stuff and stick your hand into a bunch of goop and see what’s in there. It’s really not for squeamish people.

Brooke: One thing I do is keep it clean, so I don’t leave a bunch of shit on the ground like eggs, or packaging or anything like that. And if I spill a container, I try to pick it all up. Like one time, I spilled a thing of strawberries and I picked them all up because it’s like, if you don’t leave a mess, then I feel you’re going to be allowed to do more. You’ll spoil it for everyone else if you fuck up the space.

N: Also, the food in there is a lot more edible than you would think it is. If something’s open, it might have some dirt on it or something, or it might have some other kind of food on it, but generally it’s, like, pretty salvageable.

Where are the best dumpsters in Santa Fe?
N: If you’re being creative, you can probably go a lot of places. Also, it just depends on the night you go. If you started looking around more, and got specific about what you wanted to get, you could find bakeries or other things. But the thing in Santa Fe is, there are a lot of food justice initiatives going on. [So,] a lot of places are already giving it to people who need it, which is a good thing, but that means there are less open dumpsters.

Is there a local community of divers?    
N: I wouldn’t say there is a huge community. In bigger cities, there are probably more people, but we have run into people a few times. A really liberal estimate would be 50 people, but it’s probably closer to, like, 20. Most of the time when we go we don’t see anyone, and no one’s been there before us.

How do you feel about the amount of edible food there is in these dumpsters?
N: It’s one thing to buy a steak and eat the steak and get nourishment from the steak, but…for that animal to die and all the useless crappy suffering and the detriment to the environment—the human rights and animal rights and everything—for it to go in the trash is so upsetting. No individual even got nourishment from that—it just got thrown out. The really upsetting thing about our food system [is seeing] how much gets thrown away.

Natalie Abel produced this piece as part of a Journalistic Collaborations course at SFUAD—a coordinate project with SFR. The photography and writing course is team-taught by Photography faculty member Anthony O’Brien and Creative Writing contributing faculty member Julia Goldberg, a former editor of SFR.

On occasion you can even find alcohol hiding amongst the trash
Natalie Abel
One diver digging through an almost infinite amount of dressing
Natalie Abel
Some of the buckets brought back from the trip
Natalie Abel
Part of the haul after being washed and laid out to be distributed
Natalie Abel
A full fridge for free keeps these college kids coming back
Natalie Abel


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