Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Bottom Feeders and Scavengers: a Blessing to Society

There is a rising subculture in our country and in others which feeds off of the waste of society. Dumpster divers, professional bottle collectors and scrap-heap scavengers all pick through the refuse of others looking to scrape up a little extra cash.

Some people find the presence of these persons somewhat of a nuisance; to many, a person digging through your trash bin is perceived in the same light as a skunk or rodent rummaging around in your waste barrel.

They are pests, and they are undesirables. They should be shooed away, or sprayed with something offensive to usher them out of your precious container of garbage.

Really though, I admire these grungy nocturnal scavengers. I support their cause, and believe they are bettering the world around us by choosing to benefit themselves from society's waste.

We've all seen hobos with massive shopping carts picking bottles and cans from the trash bins to redeem them for the bottle deposit.

In my opinion, this is undeniable proof that the bottle deposit system works, and good for them for helping divert these carelessly discarded resources from the trash and back into the recycling stream where they belong!

Not too long ago, I was at a work-related meeting where they were discussing the pros and cons of automatic bottle collecting machines that accept your bottles and issue a ticket (the redeemer presents the ticket to a cashier inside the store to claim their cash reward). The main problem with these labor-saving machines is they become a hot-spot for "professional bottle collectors." Their presence in a nice store is considered undesirable.

I couldn't help but laugh openly (right in the middle of the meeting), for awarding this practice with such an official and respectable-sounding title. "Professional bottle collectors": awesome.

Nonetheless, I am totally in favor of people meandering about and collecting perfectly good and recyclable bottles and cans, and doing the responsible thing with them.

Imagine what else we could do with a deposit system like this; with a deposit on plastic bags (maybe two cents--that's just my two cents though. [See what I did there?]), we would have not only a greater return on plastic bags from consumers, but even those too careless to recycle their bags for the two cents would likely have their bags plucked from the streets or waste bins to be surrendered for the deposit money.

Deposits like these keep our streets cleaner, and keep monetarily valuable resources in the recycling stream where they can be beneficial, instead of sitting in a landfill for hundreds of years in a completely worthless manner.

Even if you are too lazy and selfish to recycle your own crap, someone else will if it means they can scrape together a couple bucks for doing it.

I personally do not return my bottles to the vendor for the deposit money; I find the practice of redeeming bottles to be very tedious and time-consuming. I just put my bottles out with the rest of my recycling, and I am perfectly happy to pay someone thirty cents to redeem my empty twelve-pack for me. I am very happy that there are people around that are perfectly willing to do it.

Another interesting trend that is growing in popularity is dumpster diving, or Freeganism. Freegans typically visit the dumpsters of grocery stores or restaurants after-hours, when food that is unwanted or has approached the expiration date is discarded.

Grocery stores are forced to throw this food away when the date printed on the package draws near (for liability reasons), and restaurants have copious amounts of prepared meals that get tossed because the diner couldn't finish, or the meal was prepared incorrectly.

However, in a lot of cases it is still perfectly good food. The Freegans rescue the expired or unwanted product from the dumpsters, inspect it to decided if it is still edible, and ultimately bring it home to enjoy a meal. For free.

I think this is wonderful! The tremendous waste our society perpetuates is just completely sick. So much crap gets thrown away all the time that grocery stores build their margins with high throw-away numbers in mind; it's better for them if they over-order and have to throw a few things out than it is to under-order and run out when people are still willing to buy something.

The Freeganism movement helps save some of this perfectly good food from becoming waste.

Is dumpster diving a glorious task? Not really; I think it's pretty gross and I wish they would wear plastic gloves (some do). I certainly won't do it.

But next to composting, it is the most responsible thing I can think of for dealing with the inevitable food waste that an establishment like a grocery store or restaurant produces.

Grocery stores and restaurant owners are obviously resistant to this movement, because they want people to come into the store or restaurant and actually buy this crap. They don't want to throw it out, they want to sell it.

However, it seems to me that the people involved in this movement aren't going to shop/dine there anyhow.

So what's the harm? Let them dig through the trash.

I usually look the other way when someone is rummaging through a trash bin, or a dumpster. I don't want them to feel ashamed by having me watch them, and I am certainly aware that their task at hand is not something they are proud to be doing (there may be some exceptions to that, but those people probably aren't reading my blog anyhow).

Also, I separate my deposit-worthy recycling from the rest of the bin and put it to the side, so the professional bottle collectors will have a mighty easy time scooping them up on recycling day. They always come by the night before a pickup and rummage through the bins anyhow; why not make life easier for them?

I consider the bottom feeders of our culture to be a great blessing to society, and they offer a service that taxpayers do not have to pay for (deposits are paid by the consumer when the consumer voluntarily opts out of the deposit return process).

Keep digging, keep diving, and best of luck out there to you beautiful and under-glorified janitors of society!

I am very likely your biggest fan.

1 comment:

  1. I am right there with you my friend. I do not return my bottles with deposits. For me, thirty sense is not worth the hassle of of the trek to the packie, and I have no qualms commissioning someone my deposits to aid me in properly disposing my waste.

    Also, I have come cross another definition for Freegan, it is a person who eats a Vegan diet, only consuming animal products when it is offered to them as to not be rude.