Aussie who finds '80 per cent' of his food in bins lifts the lid on dumpster diving trend

A growing number of Australians are turning to dumpster diving a parliamentary inquiry heard, as those on the ground say there is a 'cruel mockery' going on.

With a growing number of Australians reportedly resorting to dumpster diving, a veteran dumpster diver has revealed how productive it can be for those willing to get their hands dirty.

Simon Eden has been dumpster diving for decades. The now 61-year-old has a passion for recycling and saving "as much" as he can from landfill, and says "80 per cent" of his food is found discarded in bins around South Australia.

"All I buy is my soy milk and bananas once a week," he tells Yahoo News.

The Adelaide local films his hauls and shares it online to "show how much food waste" there is out there, which has brought thousands of subscribers from across the globe. "It's atrocious," Simon says of the waste he sees.

Left image of Simon Eden wearing a grey T-shirt that says 'Best Dumpster Diver Ever' in white writing. He has a thumbs up on one hand. The right image is of food 'waste' he found in an Aldi bin, including pumpkin and ready meals.
Simon Eden films his dumpster finds to highlight how much food waste there is from big supermarkets. Source: Supplied

Aldi, petrol stations and op shops are go-to dumper diving spots

Simon gets a majority of his food finds from Aldi stores near his home in the Adelaide CBD. "Tonnes of bananas, just tonnes of bananas" he can be heard saying in a YouTube video he posted this week showing bread, sausages, ready-made meals and produce in a skip outside an Aldi store.

However he says he is no longer able to go to retail giants Coles and Woolworths. "I see them standing there on the loading dock, ripping the packaging open and throwing the contents in," he claims.

A Senate inquiry into supermarket pricing on Thursday heard a growing number of Australians are turning to dumpster diving due to the increased cost of living. Simon says he rarely sees other fellow dumpster divers at the bins he goes to in Adelaide despite how much edible food is there for the taking.

Speaking to the inquiry, Amelia Cromb from the organisation Grassroots Action Network Tasmania said large amounts of food at supermarkets had been needlessly thrown away before the expiry of 'best before dates'.

"It just seems like such a cruel mockery almost that people are going to supermarkets to buy food that is a human right ... and at the end of the day the supermarket can just basically rip the tag off that high price, throw it in the bin as though it had no value at all," she said. "It's criminal, there's no other way to put it, it's just unacceptable."

Ms Cromb told the committee that significant portions of food that were thrown out of supermarkets were still consumable, which the community group had regularly passed on to people in need.

As well as food, Simon finds many things from "expensive dinner sets" and "electronics" to brand new "board games" in the bins of op shops in affluent areas. "One of my most expensive finds was two Samsung smart TVs," he recalled.

Left image shows the two Smart TVs sitting in front of a large blue dumpster. Right image shows an open bin with food inside including bread and vegetables.
Simon not only finds food but once found two working smart TVs thrown away (left). Source: Supplied

Practice not legal in Australia

Dumpster diving does come with its dangers however, with some shop staff threatening to call the police on Simon if they see him rummaging through their bins. At one op shop recently, he says a woman "raced out" of the store to stop him before threatening to call the police.

"They put these skip bins on the front footpath and [she] came racing out — I was stupid enough to go there while they were still open — and she came racing out and she slammed the lid down almost on my fingers," he said, adding the bins were on "public property" and the rubbish was headed to landfill.

The laws on dumpster diving vary between council areas but overall it is considered illegal in Australia, treated similarly to trespassing.

Police have also warned that some forms of dumpster diving can be deadly. In February, a man's body was found "wedged in a clothing bin" at a Westfield shopping centre car park on the NSW Central Coast after — police believe — he was bin surfing, fell and broke his neck.

The dumpster diving community unofficial rules

Simon says the best time of year to go looking for food in bins is when it is cooler, so the food does not go off so fast, and that it's better to wait until shops are closed before digging in.

For those who are within the dumpster diving community, there are also unofficial "rules" to follow to make sure the practice can continue peacefully, Simon said. That includes never leaving a mess behind and even leaving areas cleaner than how you found them. "Pick up the rubbish others have left," he implores.

A dumpster diver picks through discarded food in the dark.
A dumpster diver picks through discarded food items in the back lot of a supermarket. Source: Getty

Cost-of-living pressures driving more people to the bins

Judging by comments in private dumpster diving groups on social media, many Australians are interested in the potential of sourcing their food from the rubbish of retail giants and joining the likes of Simon.

The ongoing Senate inquiry into supermarket pricing was told cost of living pressures have led to many people skipping meals altogether, or sourcing food that had been thrown out.

In 2023, a community leader in Lismore on the NSW North Coast told Yahoo he hosts workshops to teach struggling individuals how to safely and successfully participate in the activity, saying a "treasure hunt" awaits those eager to join.

"I couldn't have imagined the insane amount of perfectly good food that is thrown away," he told Yahoo. "It's really shocking and disturbing."

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