Does This Stuff Belong in a Dumpster?

Robin Greenfield and a man eating in front of a dumpster.
ActivismDumpster DivingFood Waste

Dane and I are bike-riding, dumpster diving, Wisconsin brothers with a simple mission: to show the United States how much perfectly good food is wasted, and how US Americans can be a part of the solution in their own homes and at the market.

On August 9th we hopped on our bicycles at bank of the Mississippi River on a journey to cycle across the state of Wisconsin (250 miles over 7 days) eating nothing but food we find in dumpsters, ie the trash, rubbish bins, waste buckets, or as we’ve come to call them, treasure chests.

We had a slight bit of worry that we may go hungry but our first dumpster proved otherwise. In a single Big Lots dumpster we found over $60 worth of chips, cereal, cookies, donuts, granola bars, and cinnamon buns. It was way more than we could carry so…

Dumpster Diving Across Wisconsin


We left a box full of goodies in front of the Goodwill hoping that someone would want it.

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Then we were off to the Wal-Mart down the road a few blocks. We expected to see trash compactors which are impenetrable to dumpster divers but instead found a dumpster specifically for produce waste. In other words it was full of good (and some moldy) fruits and vegetables.

The good news is that this Wal-Mart is taking the time to compost their produce waste rather than throw it in the dumpster. The bad news is that it was full of fruits and vegetables that were going to waste.

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As you can see, we pulled out all sorts of healthy gems: bananas, papaya, potatoes, broccoli, apples, nectarines, peaches, tomatoes, and a mango.

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After that we were feeling sleepy and wanted a nap but couldn’t pass up the QuikTrip dumpster. We didn’t know what we’d find but we found a monkey’s dream.
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There were exactly 100 good bananas in a box completely untouched by the rest of the dumpster’s contents. We really didn’t want to see these nanners go to waste but we couldn’t carry the thirty pounds of fruit on our bike. So we came up with a solution:

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And we decided to go back to the Wal-Mart and pass them out to people in the parking lot. A few people happily took us up on the offer and we left the rest by the exit for people to grab on their way home.
Dumpster Diving Across Wisconsin with Robin Greenfield


With full bellies we rode our bikes out of La Crosse to find a spot for an afternoon nap and a swim. Since I don’t shower a dip after diving is always key.

The afternoon slipped away and we hadn’t really made any distance on our bikes yet so we headed into the hilly lands of the Driftless Region to cover some ground. Fresh air, beautiful vistas, and horse drawn Amish buggies accompanied us through the farms and forests to Viroqua where we spent the night with a fellow Wisconsinite, Olive Reynolds.

We were welcomed into her home and prepared ourselves a nice dinner of our Wal-Mart dumpster produce and a dozen perfectly good eggs from the Mobil dumpster a block away. Along with the eggs, we found a hoarders portion of gas station pizza slices, sandwiches, burritos, cheese curds, and french fries.

Gas stations are almost always a score for this sort of junk food because they rotate the food in the warmers up to three times per day. This is the hidden cost of having hot food ready to go.

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After a long day of diving, sun, and riding we were exhausted but not hungry.
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We have a long way to go before we will solve the Global Food Waste Scandal but it’s simple actions like this that have been inspiring people around the world to cut the waste.

Today we managed to make the front page of the La Crosse Tribune, get interviewed on WXOW, and the story was picked up by the Wisconsin State Journal which tells me that this issue is something that people are really starting to pay attention to. In our upcoming blogs we’ll give you tips to how you can be a part of the solution.

To learn more about the cause and find out about how you can join Robin and Dane visit: Dumpster Diving Across Wisconsin!

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