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  • Dumpster Diving across Europe

    Below are the posts describing our dumpster diving experiences from a few countries we travelled through in summer 2006, along with various other random trips and experiences. For inexplicable reasons our dumpster diving forays in the UK have been placed elsewhere.

    10.08.06 - Norway

    taking it on the road - dumpster diving on tour!!

    we're currently in oslo, norway, and thought we'd check out the local talent. the list of supermarkets we had to visit may give you an idea of norway's suitability for dumpster diving: it turns out they have a scheme here. supermarkets split all of their food waste up and bin veg and meat seperately. it sounds ideal but all packaging is removed and the bins are not emptied daily. what you find are the early stages of compost. lifting the lid your greeted by a swarm of wasps and flies, they're not happy you're trying to steal their food. at least the food is being disposed properly. i guess.

    i feel this is the general rule, but at meny we couldn't find anything. which was a bit embarrassing, we're supposed to be pro's at this. where were they hiding their waste? to make up for it we rode their tractor (well, kristin did).

    the last place we checked was the coop, the single exception to the rule. their bin was full of stuff but unfortunately it was all shockingly out of date. and not even in a funny way. there were 108 eggs (see if you can work out what size boxes they came in), but all dated july 3rd. that's over a month old incase you weren't paying attention. there was also milk, coconut butter (which would have come in handy for the curry we'd just cooked) and extremely bloated packs of salad. those things are dangerous, they're just waiting to explode and spray you with millions of hungry bacteria. they smell too. then there was some fruit that looked okay, about five boxes of peaches, but they were a little too rough to be bothered with. all we took was eight prune yoghurts and one egg which i wanted to throw at a hummer, but one never came so i simply hurled it up the road. it was a fantastically satisfying crack and slide along the tarmac.

    next up! somewhere in europe (hopefully)

    11.08.06 - Sweden

    we're in sweden for around six hours, maybe less, squealing down the motorways between norway and denmark. we stopped a couple of times, gas stations and road side cafes, but the only exciting thing we found was a 'restuarant' that sold vege hamburgers (why ham?). somewhere near malmo we zoomed past a rather large netto distribution centre - salivate over that! of course we couldn't stop, but the thought of it still makes me smile

    11.08.06 - Denmark

    back in denmark, home but only for three days more, and we took off for one last sentimental dumpster diving journey. half to check the other iso bin and half to prove a point to our visiting guests, who were interested with nods and smiles but not with their hands and feet.

    we prised open the first dumpster and pulled several fresh loaves from an already torn bin bag. the second (and previously unexplored dumpster) was all locked up apart from the farthest hatch. this was indeed the place they hide their unsold and soiled vegetables. there wasn't much food reachable, just many bags of rubbish, so since this was our last time we took the plunge and jumped right in. sounds easy but these dumpsters have roofs and are packed high with garbage. it's like that scene out of star wars but cooler. with the extra reach we managed to pull out a few more plants, all in all: it's not much food but it's not like we're sticking around. but that orange tree had a 200kr price label (about $40) and it was a nice orchid too. just don't tell any of the guests where their bread came from.

    16.08.06 - Germany

    in germany a poor choice of campsite had left us miles from any supermarkets (well, poor if the point of this trip is dumpster diving - unfortunately it isn't), so during a brief stop for lunch we ran around behind one of the german supermarkets for a quick scoop. it looked similar to what we found in norway, small wheeley bins with vege, meat and garbage seperated out. it sounds ideal but you'd do as good to dumpster dive compost bins.

    we did 'steal' all the left over chocolates from the party in copenhagen, if that counts? only a complete asshole would have thrown them away. but then, only an asshole would throw away most of what we find, right?

    16.08.2006 - The Netherlands

    all we saw of the netherlands was our campsite, one of those that tailor to the families with kids who don't actually want to go anywhere. it had everything there and you never needed to leave, ever. so obviously there was a grocery store but not a very big one. infact it could fit all of its food waste into a small bin on the other side of the 'employees only' door, which had been cunningly left open. not cunning at all. but i had a peek and saw a bunch of lemons, maybe a melon, and a few peppers. various yellow produce that would have had to pay for if i'd taken it. so that's no good.

    19.08.2006 - Belgium

    belgium has been good to us. we've also been good to ourselves, because we made a real effort here. when we arrived in beersel (on the outskirts of brussels) we went straight to the delhaize supermarket to exchange money for food. i know you don't really want to hear about that, but while we were in there we found the trolley (more like a bath on wheels) that was full of the products to be thrown out that day. imagine dumpster diving when you knew exactly what you would be finding - "i'm not leaving til i've got that fucking cheese". in its depths were various pastas, beer (twelve pack of stellar amongst others), flour, washing up powder, bread, and something else really exicting but i can't tell what because of my messy handwriting. on leaving i had a quick check around the side and their bins were easily accessible and unlocked, only not in the day as the canteen looked out over them. unfortunately our campsite was a little too far to go journeying out, and my parents had bought more than we needed anyway.

    the next day we explored brussels and just after sundown came across the godiva chocolate factory. the smell alone had me salivating, nevermind the thought of its dumpster. surely a chocolate factory will have edible waste - chocolates dropped, misfigured or damaged? perhaps at the end of the day they empty out the machine to stop it clogging and you could go swimming in the molten chocolate. in my head i'd become charlie and was determined to dive. but walking around the building there was nothing but security cameras and locked gates. this was something somewhat out of our league. anyway, i'd already eaten too many chocolates already, mostly courtesy of a friendly disloyal employee at a chocolatier in the city centre.

    the short version of the rest of the story is that we missed the last bus back to beersel and had to walk, but luckily right passed the afor mentioned delhaize supermarket. we sneaked our way across the dark carpack, overhead lighting comfortably non-existent, before realising we had no means with which to see. we had a quick rummage through the dumpsters, but without gloves or light it's no pleasant or easy task. again we left empty handed (except i had a huge bag of comics to carry anyway).

    so anyone living in belgium, you know what to do..

    13.05.2007 - Spain
    so i just got back from spain and thought i'd do a quick dumpster diving orientated review. i never actually got my hands dirty, but i was keeping my eyes open.

    we started in madrid and there were just too many police around to attempt any side-street funny business, infact they were blocking most of the streets around our hostel. we arrived on mayday (missing all of the 'celebrations') but managed to find ourselves right in the middle of a huge street party in honour of may 2nd, something to do with the french, an arch and a girl. it was fun until the authorities tried to break it up and it descended into running battles with the police (that did actually involve a lot of running, and throwing). there was a lot of skip/dumpster action, but they were too engaged in their barricades to be raided. this was all far more exciting than diving anyway.

    valencia was the hardest city to find decent food in. they made being vegetarian a nightmare. luckily there's a huge food market that sells fantastic food at non-supermarket prices, but unluckily it was closed when we really needed it. the building work around it also made it difficult to scout out their bins. as for the rest of the city, i didn't see a single supermarket the whole time i was there. there's plenty of bakeries but i never had the chance to check them out.

    then we were in barcelona, that awesome city. given the number of squats there the dumpster diving scene must be fantastic, but we never got the chance to find out. we did find a few squats but there was no one around to talk to, not that i would have if there had, with me being chicken shit and all. but y'know, i could have shouted "ungeren blir" and ran away or something.

    so to make up for the lack of effort during the holiday we tested out the new sainsbury's trolleys for left-handing suitability. they scored an interesting 12 pints of milk and 16 toilet rolls, on a scale that's only limited by your imagination. the idea of designing in a rack to store wine bottles below the main trolley compartment must have seemed clever at the time. i wonder how long it'll take them to realise that bottles of vodka and 15 year old whiskey fit down there just as inconspicuously. i thought 12 pints might have been pushing it, but apparently not.

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