May 31, 2006
“Freegans” forage for food in Britain’s bins
By Kate Kelland
LONDON (Reuters) - Ross and Ash are about to tuck into a
meal of chicken, king prawn and rice, followed by pineapple,
strawberries and grapes for dessert.
"Everything I eat comes from dumpsters," Ash says. "For me
it's a logical lifestyle choice. It's such a natural thing to
use up that waste."
Some call them "dumpster divers," others brand them "skip
(dumpster) lickers," but Ross Parry and Ash Falkingham like to
count themselves among the Freegans -- a growing band of
foragers who seek to live entirely from the waste of others.
In this brief trip to a small supermarket dumpster in
southeast London, they have recovered enough food to provide
themselves -- and several others -- with an impressive evening
meal, as well as bread, muffins and teabags for the next
Freeganism, derived from the words "free" and "vegan," is
spreading to Britain from the United States, where one of its
founding fathers, Adam Weissman, has set up a Freegan
information Web site to persuade others to join him.
Weissman describes Freeganism as "a total boycott of an
economic system where the profit motive has eclipsed ethical
"Instead of avoiding the purchase of products from one bad
company only to support another, we avoid buying anything to
the greatest degree we are able," he explains on the site.
Falkingham, a 21-year-old Australian, sees Freeganism as a
way of forcing the world to wake up to what it is wasting.
"Nine million people die every year of starvation ... and
while that's happening, we are literally destroying food," he
There are no exact figures for how many people are choosing
to live a Freegan lifestyle in Britain. Despite the name, not
all those who opt to live this way are strictly vegan.
Falkingham and Parry, who is 46, have been roaming Britain
since last October, pursuing their Freegan lifestyle in cities
from Manchester and Leeds in the north, to Plymouth in the
They eat, sleep and live in a beaten-up old van which is
equipped with mattresses, a stove, a sink, carpets and even a
heater all taken from dumps or wreckers' yards.
Falkingham wears a watch recovered from a bin behind a
charity shop, his boots were taken from a retailer's dumpster
and the pair say they have found computer parts, furniture and
even an MP3 player in dumpsters.
They have no jobs and no money but see very little need for
"When you first start off, you think, 'How am I going to
live without a wage?'," says Parry, who has been living a
Freegan lifestyle for more than 20 years.
"But our priority is to work for love to make the world a
better place, and we want to have more time to do that. The
less time we spend chasing a salary, the more time we have to
do what we really believe in."
"There's so much excess in this society that you don't have
to worry about where the next meal is coming from."
MILLIONS OF TONS OF WASTED FOOD
According to research, more than 30 percent of the 17
million tons of waste that goes to landfill in Britain is food
Fareshare, a charity which delivers surplus food to the
homeless and other vulnerable people in need, says around a
quarter of that is perfectly good, edible food.
"Last year we redistributed 2,000 tons of food -- that
helped provide 3.3 million meals and helped around 12,000
people -- but that is still just the tip of the iceberg,"
Fareshare spokeswoman Maria Kortbech Olesen told Reuters.
Fareshare, which distributes food given by some of
Britain's biggest food retailers such as Marks and Spencer and
Sainsbury's which would otherwise go to waste, sympathizes with
Freegans, but is concerned at their sometimes risky methods.
"What they are trying to address is basically the same
thing as we are," says Kortbech Olesen. "There is a lot of
waste and we have to do something about it."
"But you have to be careful. Freegans take food from bins,
and they can never know whether that food is safe."
Falkingham shrugs off any concern about getting sick.
"I think I have only once been ill from eating food from
bins -- I got diarrhea," he says. "But I like to push the
limits with what I eat."