After unsuccessful legislative reform, German radicals defy the law to dumpster-dive at grocery stores

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I was doing desktop IT for a company back in the early 2000’s. I was throwing out of boxes in the outdoor unsecured dumpster. As I was about to pitch stuff in I noticed a new, sealed, box for SQL Server 2000 with a 5 client access license. That netted me a real quick and easy $1200 on eBay.


Malkus has appealed and intends to keep fighting until there is an acquittal. “There is nothing more obvious than the fact that an object that someone throws into the garbage bin is considered owner-less.”



It’s a privilege to pay too much for your food, and an honor to pay a fine for picking through garbage / discarded waste.


I am a die hard dumpster diver, especially living in a top tier university town.

We dumpster dive and then hand out to folks who can make use of the food, clothes, furniture, tech stuff, tools, art and architecture supplies, down comforters, towels, shoes, boots, winter coats, etc. that we collect. All usually near new, 9 months of use maybe.

I have had a lot of folks say they would like to come with me, but are too embarrassed.

My response is always: The folks who need to be embarrassed, shamed and humiliated are the people who throw this stuff in the dumpster in the first place. (there are lots of places to drop this stuff off and/or call to have picked up).


I am a dumpster diver, though not for food. Locally, there are several markets a week, and at least three times a week there are people selling second-hand stuff, sometimes good enough to count as antiques. Many of these sellers also have a job emptying houses.
Meaning, unfortunately, that many books end up in the dumpster. (Mostly from one of the aforementioned sellers, who keeps doing it even though we’ve repeatedly told him to stop.)
Today I managed to grab more than 10kg of books, which I then put in one of the small Free Library boxes. That’s not enough, but that’s all I could manage on my own.
I’ve saved quite a few bits for craft supplies over the years. Yesterday evening, bins were out, I found two judo or karate outfits, in very decent shape, with several army shirts.
Currently waiting for someone to throw away a TARDIS so I have some more space to store everything.


I notice that since Amazon took over, Whole Foods has taken to destroying excess food in a garbage disposal/dumpster that is completely closed, with access only available behind the scenes. I’ve seen this firsthand.


This is the modern equivalent of gleaning.

If they think there’s a slippery slope to theft, then there’s also a slippery slope to banning people from collecting bottles and cans from recycling bins.


“Oh, look, somebody want to help us by taking our garbage. Let’s prosecute them!”


This really sucks, especially in Austin, one of Texas’ few sanctuary cities. Whole Foods used to leave carts for homeless shelters to pick up out-of-sale-date food, but if they’re just destroying it now…damn.

H.E.B. is just as bad. When I was in Texas, I saw them toss an entire dumpster of tomatoes, mangoes, etc. because they were just a bit too soft. A call to a shelter probably would have gotten an immediate response, but they have to follow regulations for food safety. Some of those regs need to be adjusted to include secondary non-profit ways to provide food sharing before disposal is considered.


In many places, trash at the curb or where the collectors take it from, is legally considered up-for-grabs as abandoned property, mainly because then police can take it and search it without a warrant.

Is there a police loophole in this German law or do they think that dumpsters are icky?


The amount of food that gets produced then thrown away is pretty disgusting.


In my experience the most important factor after personal safety is leaving any dumpster neat and tidy. Last time I lived in this city I had many a good situation ruined by messy ferals giving retailers a reason to beef up security and frown upon the practice.

Fortunately these days I can bypass the dumpster and collect direct as many cafe’s and bakery’s are happy to share their excess at the end of the day for distribution to those who want/need it no questions asked.

I like this system as everybody wins and, as it goes with gifts, it’s efficient. Gifts keep going around until they find the need. I’ve noticed that those up for the leftovers are not the market prepared to purchase the goods from the retailer (mainly backpackers, welfare recipients, working-poor, students, street folk etc).

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There are a lot of supermarkets here that have a deal with charities, so all the food that is at the expiration date is given for free to charities, or is sold at an high discount. In bakeries there is a common ask if they have the doggie bag, that is the bread of the day before (my dog absolutely loves dry flatbread btw).
What is going in the dumpster is spoiled food that could easily cause food poisoning, to these supermarkets have to secure the dumpsters.

For non-food item it’s another story.
Some trash for someone is a treasure for others. Think about someone throwing out a perfectly working Apple II or IBM PC, or people getting rid of furniture: sometimes that campy 70s woodgrain TV table looks great in another house.

Under German law it’s not abandoned property. It is either the property of the original owner or of the person or business charged with removing it. As long as it is on the premises it’s definitely property.

Furthermore, the original owner put it into the trash under the assumption that certain procedures will be followed, especially (but not only) that the items will effectively get destroyed.

The standard public trash disposal services with local monopolies are covered by different rules set by different municipalities, but they all have clear concept of when the actual handover happens. It is never ever abandoned property.

A supermarket will have a specific contract, but the same will be true and the expectation that the trash will get destroyed is even stronger.

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While in practice most German citizens won’t care, it’s not covered by law. There have been cases where private persons put out paintings as trash to picked up for recycling (I.e. destruction) and successfully sued when people picked it up.

Time for a lesson on Value from Homo Economicus! Say ‘Hi!’ to Homo Economicus kids!

"Hi kids, here’s the word on why dumpster diving is one Hayek of a criminal thing to do:

Since the dumpster diver is a rational actor*, and all rational actors are self-interested profit maximizing entities*, the dumpster diver seeking to take a given piece of trash proves that the piece of trash has positive value(except in edge cases of imperfect information caused by state interference in the market or opaque garbage bags).

If the piece of trash has positive value; it would be altruistic of the garbage-discarder to permit the dumpster diver to take it; and altruism is the prime sin*.

QED. Any questions?"

*(axiomatically true because A=A)


Positive value to one entity does not necessarily mean the same positive value to another entity. On other words, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

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And this is how markets works. One has a thing with a low use value and want to trade to get one with a higher use value. Sometimes a good becomes a bad, and one could pay to get rid of it, because has a negative use value.
Is how barter works. My parents got a new dog, half border collie, half griffon for free. For people breeding border collies the puppy was a nuisance. My parents are happy to have a nice and noisy dog. Everyone is happy.