A crime is in progress... Image credit: meaduva, used under Creative Commons license.
Back in 2008 we heard about a man arrested for stealing waste grease to make biodiesel but as Kristin noted in her post about the freegan documentary Dive! The Film, dumpster divers eating from the trash also run the risk of prosecution. For most, this seems like just one more nuisance alongside angry shop keepers and stores that deliberately contaminate their waste. But for one unlucky freegan it became a very real problem when police showed up on her door to arrest her for "stealing" potato waffles.Dumpster Diving Equals "Theft By Finding"
According to The Daily Telegraph, British shop worker Sasha Hall was arrested for 'theft by finding', having helped herself to about £200 worth of food that had been left out in the street by a Tesco supermarket.
Freegan Handcuffed and Charged
It's unclear from the article how police ended up on Hall's doorstep, but what is painfully evident is that they were taking the incident very, very seriously indeed:
"They knocked at the door and said if I didn't open up they would use a battering ram. They handcuffed me and treated me like I was a hardened criminal and when we left they raided my house. I haven't got lots of money. I only make £600 a month."
A spokesperson for Tesco responded by explaining that the store aims to minimize waste wherever possible, but in the meantime it was "assisting police with their inquiries." While dumpster diving may not be for everyone, you would think that the police would have better things to do than track down these "thieves", and that stores might not want to draw attention to the disgusting amounts of food they throw out every day.
Sure, there are public health risks involved in eating from the trash, and every freegan has to take personal responsibility for their health. But to arrest people for liberating trash from landfill is absurd beyond belief. Of course if the food had been destined for composting or energy generation, there may be a little more debate to be had as when waste becomes a resource it is no longer waste.
Freegans Are Heroes, Not Criminals
But ultimately food is intended to be, well, eaten and if the modern supermarket system can't always make that happen, I for one am thankful for the hungry, the poor and the just-plain-frugal who go out there and take action. They are doing us all a favor. Someone should give them a medal, not a criminal record, and maybe cook them dinner...
For more on this ridiculous incident, check out Katharine Hibbert's defence of dumpster diving over at The Guardian.
More on Dumpster Diving and Freegans
Man Arrested for Stealing Waste Grease to make Biodiesel
Dumpster Diving Documentary: Dive! The Film
Secret Freegan is Dumpster Diving Robin Hood