this just in: news from the dumpster

Last week, a reader sent me a link to this article: ‘Theft by finding’: Woman who took potato waffles and pies thrown out by Tesco is handcuffed and charged with stealing.

If you don’t feel like reading the article, which I assume you won’t, I’ll paraphrase: A power outage led a Tesco branch in the UK to throw out a fucking ton of food. A 21-year-old woman took some of it. Police showed up at her door, handcuffed her, and hauled her off. For theft.

As you might recall from my recent post about dumpster legality, this is not an uncommon occurrence—dumpster divers get hassled by the police or charged with theft by grocery stores all the time. Despite the overwhelming public opinion that this is absurd. Despite grocery stores who say “Every little bit helps” (this is apparently Tesco’s charity tag line). Edible food is being thrown away, and the people who take matters into their own hands, who save food from the landfill and fill their bellies (often because their pocketbooks don’t give them much of a choice), are criminalized.

Quoth the article: “A Tesco spokesman said: ‘We are assisting the police with their inquiries. We seek to minimise waste in all our stores and where possible will seek to reuse and recycle it.’”

But you know what the hitch is? They would never, ever donate food being thrown out after a power outage to anyone. You know why? Because that would also be illegal (not to mention an extreme insurance liability). Well-intentioned as food expiry dates and safety regulations are, they make it illegal for grocery stores to do the right thing, and those stores, in turn, make it illegal for the rest of us.

Photo © Tara Stewart. The Click Clack Gorilla in her natural habitat. Don’t arrest me Mr. Policeman, I was only on the dumpster for purposes of the photo shoot… If you like Tara’s camera work, she’s selling some of her prints over on her blog Fish in the Water in order to finance the tools she needs to get started on some small-scale farming.

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Tuesday February 15th 2011, 7:40 am 6 Comments
Filed under: conspiracies,dumpster diving,freegan

6 Comments so far. Please leave a comment.

That’s really interesting. There have been court cases in the US (generally regarding stealing documents from garbages and other forms of industrial espionage) that say that when one discards something, one has effectively given up ownership. I’d be interested to know the outcome of this case and whether this woman has effective representation.

Comment by GinBerlin 02.15.11 @ 10:06 am

I know that in the States, one’s personal trash ceases to be personal property as soon as the trash bin is no longer on personal property (i.e. if a resident places it on the sidewalk or something).

Comment by Jill 02.16.11 @ 6:05 pm

I’d really like to know how the case turns out too, if you get any updates!

So, besides this just being an absurd reason to arrest someone… it’s even more infuriating when you think the police are spending time on this and not catching real criminals who’re out there hurting people.

Comment by Frugal Vegan Mom 02.16.11 @ 10:06 pm

It’s such a shame that this food isn’t being donated to the hungry! One of my duties at the old food coop I used to be member of was to sort out the slightly bruised, not sellable but still edible, fruits and veggies and bag them up to be sent to a soup kitchen. I have no idea what the policy was on products with actual expiration dates printed on them, but still. This should really be part of common practice!

Comment by Mandi 02.17.11 @ 8:34 pm

Mandi: I couldn’t agree more. I think if we lived in a saner society, it would be part of common practice. Until then…

FVM: I’m going to try to find out what happens with that case. Would love to know for myself, and all my dumpster diving friends in England.

Jill: The law really made a huge victory for dumpster divers on that one. I remember reading that that law was passed so that cops could get evidence out of people’s trash legally. And now so can the dumpster divers. Heh.

Comment by clickclackgorilla 02.18.11 @ 2:42 am

[...] this just in: news from the dumpster [...]

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