Sydney: Dumpster divers seek recycling and food as cost of living rises

The skyrocketing cost of living has led to an increase in dumpster divers looking for recyclable plastics or half-decent food.

Sydneysiders struggling with the soaring cost of living have been forced to dive into trash cans to find recyclable plastics to exchange for cash and scavenge bins for half-decent food.

In a video shared online, a woman rummages through a household recycling bin on Sydney’s northern beaches to collect all the plastic bottles for recycling.

The recyclables are likely destined for a NSW Government return and earn center, where the waste can be exchanged for cash.

According to the data, approximately 157.8 million containers were collected through the recycling program in April 2022. At 10 cents a piece, it’s no surprise people are collecting bottles by the bag to reap the financial reward .

But trash cans can also offer other rewards.

In the climate of soaring costs and high levels of food waste, many Australians have taken to digging into bins to scavenge food that would otherwise go straight to landfill.

Food relief organization OzHarvest works in partnership with businesses to collect food destined for the trash and get it to those in need.

Founder and CEO Ronni Kahn had first-hand experience of dumpster diving and was shocked to see the amount of edible food that was thrown away.

“The dumpster dive is a sad reflection that good food is still wasted unnecessarily,” she said.

Facebook groups for dumpster divers have thousands of members, and one community has even created an app to direct avid divers to the best bins for foraging.

A spokesman for the Environmental Protection Agency urged affected residents to report the ‘bin fossilization’ to their local council.

“Dumping garbage on public land is waste and illegal. Scattered waste incidents should be reported to your local council,” the spokesperson said.

“While curbside trash cleaning is happening in some areas, it’s not widespread.”

For many, dumpster diving is a solution to the environmental problem of waste and offers a viable alternative to food insecurity.

According to last year’s Food Bank Hunger Report, one in six adults did not get enough food in the 12 months to July 2021.

Of the five million people who went hungry during this period, the report showed that more than 1.2 million were children.

“The report shows that people of all ages, living alone, in families and in groups are susceptible,” read a statement from the food bank.

With the cost of living soaring, charity workers said they heard many stories of mothers having to make the difficult choice between formula and food or others having to choose between food or medicine.

Experts say this is a preventable situation. According to the Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre, Australia wastes 7.6 million tonnes of food every year, 70% of which is edible.

A spokesperson for OzHarvest said demand for food aid peaked during the perfect storm of the pandemic, inflation and rising costs.

“We have seen demand continue to increase over the past month,” Ms. Kahn said.

‘A Coffs Harbor charity said in the past month it had gone from helping an average of 60 people a day to 90 – highlighting the unaffordability of fuel, food, and especially food. housing and rent.”

The number of people seeking food aid has increased by more than 62% from pre-Covid levels.

A further 300 people flocked to OzHarvest Market in Waterloo over the past month, pushing the number of people in need from 1,400 to 1,700 in a matter of weeks.

“OzHarvest and other organizations in the food aid sector are here to support the most vulnerable in our community,” Ms Kahn said.

“In times of heightened need, our services are always in high demand and we must respond quickly and at scale to ensure food reaches those who need it most.”

Ms said the number of Australians seeking food aid underscored the need for sustained government funding for the food aid sector.

“Continued supply disruptions and economic uncertainty have made it harder for people to meet their basic needs,” Ms Kahn said.

“There is an urgent need to address this problem at the national level because it is only getting worse.”

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