Desperate Aussies are reportedly turning to innovative – and potentially dangerous – ways to save on their grocery bill as some frugal penny-pinchers go under cover for their next meal.
"You can save hundreds of dollars from one dumpster dive," declares a NSW community volunteer determined to help feed disadvantaged groups.
As a community leader in Lismore on the NSW north coast he hosts workshops to teach 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 News Australia. "It's really shocking and disturbing."
In a local Facebook post this week promoting his upcoming workshop, a plan that involves taking others into the streets to pilfer discarded bits of food, he promoted the free tour as an "incredibly satisfying adventure".
"All the animals on the farm - now in the bin - now rescued," he wrote.
What is dumpster diving?
Dumpster diving is simply the act of digging through other people's rubbish, particularly shop's bins, with the hope that something of value is found. Scavengers may search for financially valuable items to sell, or they may look for still-fresh and edible food they can eat, as is the case for Andrew.
The laws on dumpster diving vary between council area but overall it is considered illegal in Australia, treated similarly to trespassing. However, Andrew claimed police and supermarket workers frequently turn a blind eye when he does it.
'There's so much food sitting there'
The rising cost of living is hitting Australian households hard, with a recent report revealing the cost of food is now among the biggest money worries for Aussies.
On average households spend $608 per month on groceries, with this figure arguably higher now since it was recorded in July last year. The prospect of finding free and edible food is unsurprisingly enticing for many.
"I've found cartons of eggs, piles and piles of milk ... Bacon, hummus, vegetables and sour dough bread. This is absurd," Andrew said.
"Some people are concerned for health and safety ... Maybe 50 per cent of food isn't past its expiry."
The risks of eating food found in bins
However, there are a number of risks associated with eating food that was found while dumpster diving.
"The person retrieving the food from the bin would not have knowledge as to why the food was discarded," Edward McCartney from Food Safety Plus told Yahoo.
From the food being spoiled to the packaging not correctly listing an allergen ingredient, this could be a health hazard to the scavenger.
"Perishable food would also not be stored at the correct temperature in the bin, which would allow dangerous bacteria to grow ... [such] bacteria would not change the appearance, colour or odour of the food."
'Dumpster diving appeals to universal values'
Despite being a contentious activity, Andrew believes dumpster diving is a solution to several issues society is facing at the moment.
"The thing with dumpster diving is that it basically appeals to universal values. Nobody agrees with throwing away good food while others go hungry," he said.
In Australia 7.6 million tonnes of food are wasted each year, which equates to 312 kilograms per person, according to a report released by the Australian Government.
"Be curious. Do it incidentally while you pass a bin ... and wear a rain jacket and good shoes," Andrew added.
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