It is now common knowledge that the world is experiencing a major trash crisis: the ocean is drowning in plastic and the landfills are overflowing with a perennial stream of unwanted waste.
The average American generates approximately four pounds of trash each day. While this number seems staggering, even more startling is the fact that—on average—only 1.5 pounds of this amount is actually properly recycled or composted!
While consumers’ excessive spending habits, confusion over “use-by” dates on food packaging, and overall wasteful habits are to blame, mammoth retailers and supermarket chains are equally—if not more—responsible for the piles of rubbish littering the earth. In addition to the countless superficially damaged products and “ugly” produce that get tossed for, really, no reason at all—retailers’ absurd return policies and unnecessary “sell-by” dates also lead to perfectly usable products being thrown out.
Enter Anna Sacks, the activist and self-proclaimed “Trash Walker” who is raising awareness for retailers’ wasteful practices by diving for change one NYC dumpster at a time. For the past year, Sacks has spent her evenings salvaging usable items from CVS dumpsters in order to raise awareness for the excessive waste retailers generate due to their imprudent policies regarding slightly damaged or soon-to-expire goods.
So, what exactly are retailers like CVS throwing out? Well, just about everything…
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Recent items from @cvspharmacy’s trash, some of which were shown on @pix11news. They include unused tissues, ziplock bags, tampons, soap, gauze pads, Ensure drinks, granola bars, makeup, and more. • Someone asked if what I’m doing is the same thing as dumpster diving. It is. I’m just trying to reframe it as an environmental and social issue. Like can’t we as a society think of a better use for these items other than trash? Especially given that we have limited resources on earth and have a growing population with many people who struggle to get enough to eat or can’t afford medicine. • I think everyone who dumpster dives is doing a valuable service by making sure these items aren’t wasted, but instead are used. For some people, dumpster diving is a way to prevent hunger or supplement their income. I don’t want to take that away from them. But I think the current system is inefficient for a few reasons: • 1. Items are not always accessible. A lot of stores keep their trash out of reach, either by locking it up or putting everything into a compactor. No one is then able to rescue the items. Other times, items are literally out of reach or buried under underneath. • 2. Even if items are accessible, they’re not always usable. Some stores, including certain CVS locations, deliberately destroy the items to prevent anyone from using it. Even if items are intact, I stay away from milk products, meat, and frozen food since they can easily spoil, and I wouldn’t want anyone to get sick. • 3. Even if the items are accessible and usable, they still might not be rescued. Maybe no one in the area dumpster dives. Maybe the trash is outside and it’s raining. Maybe there’s too many things to take and only so much one person can carry (see: 72 huge bags of Kit Kats in a past post). • I really don’t want to take away dumpster diving from people who rely on it, but the current system results in a lot of waste. By having CVS donate instead of dumping, I hope all usable items can and will be used so that they benefit the most people. • Let me know if you have any questions or comments 🙂
Unused tissues, Ziplock bags, tampons, soap, gauze pads, food, makeup, Aloe vera, sparkling water, the list goes on…
With so many people struggling to put food on the table, it strikes a nerve to know that 45 percent of all fruits and vegetables are wasted globally each year—much at the hands of supermarket chains. While many might be repulsed at the thought of eating something that came from a dumpster, Sacks works to raise awareness for the fact that just because something is inside a trash bin doesn’t mean it’s meant to be there.
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Food from my local grocery store’s dumpster one night last week. And there was even more but I couldn’t take it all. A few notes: 1. If Brussels sprouts seem to be bad, peel off a few outer layers. Usually they’re beautiful underneath 2. To prolong the life of asparagus, refrigerate them upright in a glass with a little bit of water in it (as if they were fresh cut flowers) 3. Wilted greens are great sautéed (did this with the kale and spinach)
Sacks even explores dumpsters outside of NYC public schools and has found used pencils, erasers, crayons, coloring pencils, paint sets, books, toys, and much more—which is quite shocking when you consider how badly teachers struggle to adequately stock their classrooms given their meager salaries and lack of sufficient school funding.
Help put a stop to these wasteful practices:
1. Urge retail giants and other institutions to donate their goods instead of sending them to the trash. Sign Anna’s petition demanding CVS to donate their goods to local shelters, food pantries, and churches, or allow employees to take home the usable items. You can also create your own petition and challenge other retailers and supermarkets to do the same!
2. Purchase ugly produce and other superficially damaged goods when you shop. Help reduce the amount of food waste grocery stores generate by making it a point to seek out deformed veggies and dented cans of food, because it’s highly likely other shoppers will forgo these products due to their “imperfections.”
3. Try your hand at diving for change. Gather a group of friends together and go on your own trash walk—you’ll be surprised at what you just might find!
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