Features

Garbage collectors

"Garbage collectors" Continued...

Issue: "Geo-gizmos," April 25, 2009

For Dieleman trash is also renewable energy. Landfill gas, for one, can be channeled into energy, but that is an icky, unpopular idea, especially with the climate-change lobby, with its concern for letting loose in the atmosphere methane, a potent greenhouse gas. To that Dieleman shakes his head: "There are so many good uses for garbage!"

Elsewhere in Washington, a like-minded group is going at the problem in a more grubby way, with the only investment being their own time. They are dumpster divers who haunt the backside of grocery stores, restaurants, and bakeries to get their daily bread. Ryan Beiler, one of the ringleaders and web editor for Sojourners magazine, said his family eats well as a result: On one of his first runs he boasts that he found several jars of beluga caviar. If that doesn't sound entirely appealing, he also has found prime cuts of beef, smoked salmon, and fresh vegetables.

Thirty million pounds of food are thrown out every year, according to the EPA. Often, food has to be discarded when it is past its expiration date, though it may not be spoiled. The divers say they are careful about getting food that won't make them sick-but untouched food in the trash, they say, is God's provision. Beiler said since he hasn't spent very much money on groceries, he has more money to give away. He sometimes ends up with bags of artisan breads that he brings in to share at work. Other divers will come up with "a bumper crop of organic apples, or a surplus of Belgian chocolate pudding," he says. And they always share.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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