September 29, 2014
Dumpster Diving Essay
In his article “On Dumpster Diving,” Lars Eighner’s describes what it is like to be homeless and explains how it is possible to ‘live from the refuse of others’. The article was published in 2014 in ‘Writing Now’. He talks about what he has learnt from dumpster diving, including how to scavenge, where to scavenge and the unexpected items that you can find just by looking in peoples dumpsters. Although Eighner teaches us how it is perfectly possible to survive this way, he emphasizes how he would not choose to live that way if he had the choice. This is why he prefers to use the term ‘scavenging’ instead of dumpster diving because he feels that dumpster diving sounds too cute and paints a false picture.
Eighner almost sounds proud of being a scavenger, describing it as an ‘honorable niche’ and even an ‘art’. He argues that the people who live the comfortable consumer life can be wasteful. However, he admits that ‘only perhaps’ would he be less wasteful himself if he were to one day be off the streets. He has learnt this through what he has found during his time dumpster diving. He has easily been able to get all the necessities just from the things that people throw away.
He starts with food and explains how he is able to find it and how he knows if it is safe to eat. Eighner writes in a way that instructs the reader and also makes it sound like a science. For example, he goes into detail about how heat can break down botulin to prevent food poisoning. This gives the impression that he takes what he does very seriously and he considers it a profession.
When talking about food waste, he particularly focuses on students. He talks about how almost all students are guilty of throwing away perfectly good food, and argues that it is maybe because it was bought with ‘daddy’s money’ so less thought is given when throwing it away. Student trash and dumpsters from pizza restaurants is where he is most successful in finding food.
However, It is not just food that Eighner finds from dumpster diving. He also talks about other things such as bank statements and other confidential documents that people throw away in the trash. It is ironic how Eighner considers it unethical to draw conclusions on the people who dump in the dumpsters, and yet he has considered compiling a book of people’s journals. Finding these sentimental objects has lead him to realize that these things are in fact valueless to someone. He used to be the sort of person who invested in objects with sentimental value, but now he is without them he realizes he never truly needed the object to still have the sentiment.
Eighner surprisingly does not