The Wellington 'dumpster diver' who gets his groceries from a bin

While most of us stock up on groceries at the supermarket, Wellingtonian James Harris gets his from down in the dumps. 

Mr Harris is among hundreds of Kiwis who dive into supermarket dumpsters to get their weekly food. He showed The Project a spread of some of the food he's collected, including chocolate and a sushi starter pack. 

His collection consists of a range of food products that have been thrown out of supermarkets because they've outlived their use-by dates. 

But once those products have been disposed of, it's actually illegal to take them out of the bins. Some supermarkets have even gone to the effort of locking their outside bins. 

Mr Harris says what the supermarkets are doing is wasteful. He says dumpster-divers can pull out hundreds of dollars' worth of perfectly good food in a single plunge.

"I actually first heard about it about 10 years ago. I'm 27 now and I was 17 at the time and still in school. Me and a friend thought why not just see what we could find in a dumpster," Mr Harris told The Project. 

Wellingtonian dumpster-diver James Harris speaking to The Project.
Wellingtonian dumpster-diver James Harris speaking to The Project. Photo credit: The Project

"We went out and jumped the fence, had a look [in the bin], and we found an entire bag of chocolate - and from then on I was hooked," he recalls. 

Mr Harris says he's trying to make a point about waste. The big thing with dumpster-diving, he said, is that it emphasises the amount of food waste being produced at a time when parents are choosing between paying their electricity bill and putting food on the table. 

"For me it's really a symbol of that inequality," Mr Harris told The Project. 

He said he has "a bit of a sweet tooth" and hit the jackpot one time when he discovered "hundreds" of Ferrero Rocher chocolates to indulge in. 

More than 100,000 tonnes of food is thrown away by local industry every year.


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