For most of us, spending $8 on food in one week would be a huge challenge. Spending just $8 in a month? Close to impossible. One Singaporean man managed to spend just $8 on food in a year. How? By dumpster diving in Singapore.
Daniel Tay is not your average Singaporean. He is a dumpster diver and freegan (someone who rejects consumerism and reduces his waste, especially by using discarded food and goods).
Tay says that dumpster diving in Singapore makes sense because many people throw out things that are still in good condition. He’s been able to find sound systems, cooking appliances, designer bags, and even a PlayStation 3 at one point.
Tay only spends on bills, investments, and a mortgage every month. He buys food for his cats, but hardly ever for himself.
Even in a wealthy country like Singapore, there are many who don’t have enough food. “And yet every year, we waste tonnes of food,” Tay tells The Straits Times. “It does not make any sense.”
And if you’re worried about health risks, Tay seems to know what he’s doing. He’s only been sick twice last year, and neither illness was caused by eating scavenged foods.
What is freeganism and dumpster diving?
Even though freeganism and dumpster diving are sometimes used interchangeably, they’re two distinct things.
Tay explained to Cleo Singapore that many dumpster divers aren’t freegans because instead of using the things they find for their own purposes, they sell them to earn money.
You also don’t have to be a dumpster diver to be a freegan — some just forage for food or grow their own.
“Freeganism is a lifestyle. A philosophy. Dumpster diving is an activity. It’s just a matter of [choosing] what makes sense for you,” he says.
How does dumpster diving work?
Tay does three activities to maintain his freegan lifestyle:
1. Asking neighbours for unwanted food
They were happy to give him their expired food and leftovers, thankful for the opportunity to lessen their waste. It wasn’t long before they were hanging unwanted food on his door every day.
Tay says that doing this has made him closer to his neighbours.
2. Dumpster diving from shop and supermarket dumpsters.
Tay finds many fruits and vegetables from these dumpsters. (He never dumpster dives for meats for obvious reasons, but gets his meat from his neighbours.)
He prefers dumpster diving after dark to avoid judging eyes. He usually looks around the bins in his neighbourhood, but he says that he often goes to Little India, his favourite place for fresh produce.
He’d find so much that he’d give extras to his neighbours and friends. Sometimes, he’d even have to take a break from dumpster diving because even they had too much.
3. Looking for usable trash under void decks
He says that he finds clothes and toiletries in these bins around void decks, as well as household appliances and gadgets.
“Basically, anything you can buy in a mall, you can find at the void deck,” he tells Cleo.
Why does Tay go dumpster diving in Singapore?
Tay has a job as a financial planner, so he didn’t go into dumpster diving out of necessity. He learned about dumpster diving through an Honesty Circles event, where he met a dumpster diver who claimed to only spend $100 a month.
“I was like, ‘How?'” Tay tells Cleo Singapore. “I’m a financial planner. A very detailed one, at that. And in order to survive in Singapore, you need a minimum of $1,500 a month. I wanted to know more, so I went to talk to him.”
Tay first wanted to try dumpster diving just to get free stuff. But now, he is more focused on reducing waste, and most of all, spending less time working and living life on his own terms.
To read more about dumpster diving and freeganism, read Tay’s blog, Freegan in Singapore.
What do you think of dumpster diving in Singapore? Would you be willing to do this?
Here are some articles that you might find interesting: