Your dinner’s in the bin


Apparu dans le milieu des années 1990, le freeganisme est un mouvement et un mode de vie qui s’est répandu progressivement au Royaume-Uni. Il vise à lutter contre la société de consommation, contre la globalisation et à dénoncer le gaspillage alimentaire et la pollution générés notamment par les déchets et les transports.


The word “freegan” is derived from “free” and “vegan“. “Free” because freegans mainly feed on wasted and thrown away food, and “vegan” because they avoid products from animal sources. The typical freegan is:

  • A fighter against the waste caused by the capitalist economy
  • An environmental, political, or animal-rights activist (or some combination of the three)
  • Interested in being free from the restraints of a paying job
  • Someone who often rehabilitates abandoned and decrepit buildings because he / she believes that real human needs are more important than abstract notions of private property.

The movement has spread to the UK as illustrated by a survey carried out by the waste organisation Wrap in 2008, which studied a sample of household bins and found that each year 6.7m tonnes of food are thrown away and wasted. This is precisely what freeganism is fighting: waste and consumer society.

Consumers are constantly exposed to advertising urging them to spend money and buy things they may not really need. As Will Rogers said, “too many people spend money they haven’t earned, to buy things they don’t want, to impress people they don’t like.” So, according to freegans, people go into debt because of a capitalist economy that pushed them to spend and waste.


Thus, freegans aim to buy as little as possible and to use only what they need. For that, they decided to use alternative strategies such as “dumpster diving” (or “garbage picking“), literally foraging in bins, looking for discarded items that are still useful, or can be recycled. At night, they use a torch to search bins outside food markets and charity shops.

garbage picking

Freegans also attempt to limit their impact on the world by using fuel-efficient modes of transportation to reduce their energy consumption (biking, walking, carpooling…). Furthermore, lots of used commodities can also be found for free or shared with others on websites like Freecycle.

They often organise events like “Really, Really, Free Markets” or “Freemeets” which are akin to flea markets with free items. They give and take but not a pound is exchanged.

Freeganism is still very criticized, for example because a lot of people feel disgusted by where freegans find food. And is freeganism really effective? Is it not illusory and utopian to believe that everybody can and should live without consuming? Isn’t it hypocritical to depend on other people’s consumption and garbage?

Aili CHEN & Cécile LIN


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