Sydney residents struggling with the rising cost of living have been forced to dive into a dumpster for recyclable plastics to exchange for cash and rummage through bins for semi-decent food.
In a video shared online, a woman scours a garbage can to go to Sydney’s northern beaches to collect all the plastic bottles for recycling.
The recyclables are likely destined for an NSW Government Return and Earn center where the waste can be exchanged for cash.
Camera icon Locals in Sydney, struggling with the rising cost of living, are forced to look through bins in search of food Credit: News Corp Australia.
According to data, about 157.8 million containers were collected through the recycling system in April 2022. At 10 cents each, it’s no surprise that people collect bottles by the bag to reap the financial reward.
But bins can also offer other rewards.
In a climate of skyrocketing costs and food waste, many Australians have turned to dumpster diving to reclaim food that would otherwise go straight to landfill.
Food rescue organization OzHarvest is working with companies to rescue food that goes to the trash and pass it on to those in need.
Founder and CEO Ronni Kahn has experienced diving into a container firsthand and was shocked to see how much edible food was thrown away.
“Dumpster diving is a sad reflection that good food is still being wasted unnecessarily,” she said.
Dumpster Divers Facebook groups have thousands of members, and one community has even created an app to direct avid divers to the best bins to forage.
A spokesman for the Environment Protection Agency urged concerned residents to report “garbage cans” to their council.
Tipping garbage cans on public land is litter, and it is illegal. Incidents involving debris must be reported to your municipality,” said the spokesperson.
“While bin cleaning is common in some areas, it’s not widespread.”
For many, dumpster diving is a solution to the environmental problem of waste and a viable alternative to food insecurity.
Camera IconA dumpster diver in Adelaide picks fresh produce from the trash. Credit: Included
According to last year’s Food Bank Hunger Report, one in six adults was not getting enough to eat from 12 months to July 2021.
Of the five million people who went hungry during that period, the report found that more than 1.2 million were children.
“The report shows that people of all ages, single, in families and groups, are susceptible,” a statement from the Food Bank said.
With the rising cost of living, charities said they heard many stories of mothers having to make the difficult choice between baby formula and food or that others had to choose between food or medicine.
Experts say it’s an avoidable situation. According to The Food and Agribusiness Growth Centre, Australia wastes 7.6 million tons of food annually, 70 percent of which is edible.
Camera IconOzHarvest founder Ronnie Khan said the demand for food aid was greater than ever. John Appleyard Credit: News Corp Australia
An OzHarvest spokesperson said food aid demand had peaked during the perfect storm of the pandemic, inflation, and rising costs.
“We’ve seen demand rise in the past month,” said Ms. Kahn.
“A charity in Coffs Harbor said in the past month that they have gone from helping an average of 60 people a day to 90 – indicating unaffordability of fuel, food, and specifically housing and rent.”
The number of people seeking food aid has increased by more than 62 percent from pre-Covid levels.
Over the past month, an additional 300 people have flocked to the OzHarvest Market in Waterloo, raising the number of needy people from 1,400 to 1,700 in weeks.
“OzHarvest and other food aid organizations are here to support the most vulnerable in our community,” said Ms. Kahn.
Camera IconOzHarvest said Australians throw away more than $36 billion worth of food every year. Jeremy Piper Credit: News Corp Australia
“In times of increasing need, our services are always in high demand, and we need to respond quickly and widely to ensure food gets to those who need it most.”
Ms said the number of Australians seeking food aid highlights the need for sustainable government funding for the food aid sector.
“Continuous supply disruptions and economic uncertainty have made it more difficult for people to meet their core needs,” Ms. Kahn said.
“There is an urgent need to address this problem at a national level as it will only get worse.”