In many parts of Spain – including the capital city of Madrid – dumpster diving carries a hefty fine.
Madrid was the first Spanish city to outlaw dumpster diving back in 2009, but since then many other provinces have jumped on board. The fine for folks caught dumpster diving in Madrid is 750 Euros, which is almost $1000. So, why the crackdown? According to Ana Botella, environmental delegate in Madrid:
“I refuse to live in a city and in a society in which I am forced to accept that there are people who go rummaging in the garbage to eat. The Town Hall has to ensure the sanitary conditions of the city. Unfortunately, the destruction of a million jobs in one year is creating new social profiles, but the social service network offers resources for them.”
That seems like a pretty dicey bit of logic to me. You won’t accept that people will dumpster dive for food, so you outlaw dumpster diving? Wouldn’t it make more sense to try to divert that food waste to people who need it? Making dumpster diving illegal feels like treating the symptoms, and like my favorite band sings, “If you can heal the symptoms but not affect the cause, then you can’t heal the symptoms.”
Jessi Stafford wrote a great piece on dumpster diving here at Eat Drink Better last April, and I think she really nails it (emphasis mine):
“Many dumpster divers utilize urban foraging as a sort of protest against the established corporate food system and as a means to eliminate unnecessary waste. Basically, it is the practice of sifting through trash (mostly commercial, sometimes residential) in search of salvageable food, clothing, and other discarded, but still useful, items. Dumpster diving is an intentional action against a materialistic and wasteful society.“
Here in the U.S. laws on dumpster diving vary by city. In some areas, there aren’t laws against the practice, in others it falls under privacy or anti-trespassing laws, and some towns outright forbid it.
Is dumpster diving legal where you live? Have you been fined or arrested for foraging for food? Tell us in the comments!
Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by mike krzeszak