Is dumpster diving fair game or a crime?

  • News
  • May 1, 2015
  • Elly Strang
Is dumpster diving fair game or a crime?

According to a New Zealand Reddit thread, it is, but it seems the demographic of dumpster divers is skewed towards young people trying to score some free food. 

Commenters on the site were reluctant to share too many details about their sweet spots, but references cropped up for supermarkets – Countdown, Pak n’ Save and New World all got a mention.

“I live in Christchurch. We've done it to supermarkets mainly, so Pak'n Save and Countdown. After an earthquake gets a good haul at supermarkets, because they just throw it all out. We scored boxes and boxes of goon bag wine (over 15 goons) and a sh--load of unopened chocolate. This was all around Christmas a couple of years ago,” one user said.

“We used to steal yesterday’s bread from out the back of the Chaffers New World in Welly. They clicked on and started moving it or putting it so you had to climb over trollies. We climbed over the trollies and they moved it for good. But we got a good six months outta it so it’s all good. Used to take five or six loaves at a time. One time we even got pies,” said another.

A blog post by ‘Eleanor’ at The Grace Collective recommends dumpster diving as a way for those on a budget to free up some cash by grabbing some groceries. 

Check out her haul from two grocery stores last year. She insists no one she knows has gotten sick from dumpster food.

This is unlike Matt Malone, the US IT worker, who is making his riches through finding pristine products he then on-sells.

Whether or not dumpster diving is a crime is a bit of a grey area. 

New Zealand laws don’t specifically cover dumpster diving. However, it can be classed as theft, as it’s understood that rubbish is still the property of the disposer until an operator has collected it. 

Dunedin TV reported that three arrests were made over dumpster diving in 2009.

Trespassing is also a concern.

So what do New Zealand’s retailers do to prevent dumpster diving?

Foodstuffs corporate PR director Antoinette Laird says in the interest of public health and safety, the company recommends members of the public don’t get food from bins.

She says this is for various reasons, including the risk from cross-contamination in the bin, the safety and wellbeing of the product can’t be guaranteed even though visibly it might seem edible. Taking discarded food could also constitute theft.

“We appreciate some people see dumpster diving as a way of accessing free food, and while we acknowledge some items may still be edible, there are significant health risks associated with such an activity and we would strongly recommend against it,” Laid says.

“Many stores do lock their bins as part of their health and safety protocols.”

The store has a number of initiatives in place to curb food waste. 

Grocery from Pak’n Save and New World are donated to a food bank twice a week and frozen products are sold to staff. 

Bread, dented tins and other products are donated to food banks and women’s refuges.
A spokesperson for Countdown says policy is to donate food wherever possible through its food rescue programme.

In the last financial year, they say $3.4 million worth of food went to organisations such as the Salvation Army, Kaibosh, Foodshare, and Fair Food.

“Dumpster diving isn't something we see a lot of across our stores, however, we don't encourage or condone people taking food from our bins,” the spokesperson said.

“We work really hard to find a second home for as much food as we can - food expiry dates are based on scientific testing and if food has been dumped, it is there for a reason.”

As for retailers outside food, The Warehouse Group’s head of PR and media Julia Morton says it’s not a problem for its shops, as if a product is not valid for sale, its destroyed or recycled.

Morton says they instead have a reverse problem – members of the public dump their rubbish into the company’s skips.

We’re interested to hear about your views on dumpster diving. Have you experienced it? Do you condone it?

Drop us a comment below or email

​ ​

This is a community discussion forum. Comment is free but please respect our rules:

  1. Don’t be abusive or use sweary type words
  2. Don’t break the law: libel, slander and defamatory comments are forbidden
  3. Don’t resort to name-calling, mean-spiritedness, or slagging off
  4. Don’t pretend to be someone else.

If we find you doing these things, your comments will be edited without recourse and you may be asked to go away and reconsider your actions.
We respect the right to free speech and anonymous comments. Don’t abuse the privilege.


Restaurant Brands turns 22

  • News
  • March 26, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Restaurant Brands turns 22

As it prepares to celebrate its 22nd birthday, the listed corporate franchisor foresees a sunny future for the three – soon to be four - multi-site branded food retail chains it manages in New Zealand.

Read more

Linwood businesses struggle in mosque attack aftermath

  • News
  • March 26, 2019
  • Radio New Zealand
Linwood businesses struggle in mosque attack aftermath

A group of Christchurch businesses are struggling to get back on their feet after the attack on their neighbouring Linwood Mosque. Photo: RNZ / Katie Todd

Read more

Farmers account awarded to Clemenger Group

  • News
  • March 26, 2019
  • StopPress Team
Farmers account awarded to Clemenger Group

99 and Colenso BBDO have won the creative and customer experience business for Farmers. The win, after a competitive pitch, sees the advertising account return to 99 after a six-year hiatus.

Read more

Social scoreboard

Zavy and The Register have worked together to create a scoreboard that compares how the top 25 traditional media advertising spenders in New Zealand have performed on social media over the past 30 days, updated in real time.

Concept to closet
Business coverage of New Zealand Fashion Week.
Town centres
A positive retail environment over the past 12 ...
Amazon Arrival
Keeping up with all things Amazon as it ...
The Retail Yearbook 2017
As we battle our way through the busiest ...
Hospitality enhancing retail
Some think food and integrated hospitality offerings will ...
The future is bright
We spoke with four retailers in their twenties ...
Spotlight on signage
At first glance, the humble in-store sign might ...
Red Awards 2016
The Red Awards for retail interior design celebrate ...
Auckland Unitary Plan
Auckland is changing. The Unitary Plan will decide ...
How to open a store
Sarah Dunn considers what it would take to ...
All things to all people
Kiwi retailers share their omnichannel strategies.
Rising stars
Retail's top young achievers.
Delivering on your promises
The sale isn't over until your item is ...
Retail in heartland New Zealand
Retailers keep the regions pumping, but how strong ...
Women in retail help one another. We spoke ...
The changing face of retail
Shifting demographics are creating big changes in New ...
The retail yearbook
With the help of experts in the retail ...
Retail rogues
We put the spotlight on staff training. Jai ...
Here come the giants
Topshop has arrived in Auckland’s CBD, David Jones ...
Window shopping: A spotlight on social media
Sarah Dunn and Elly Strang look at how ...
From retail to e-tail
Ecommerce has become part of the way mainstream ...
Loyalty in the digital age
How are retailers maintaining loyalty? Sarah Dunn, Elly ...
The Innovators | In partnership with Spark Business
Technology is rapidly changing the retail industry as ...

Hemp products go beyond the specialty shelves

  • News
  • March 25, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
Hemp products go beyond the specialty shelves

Since hemp seeds’ legalisation for growing, manufacture and sale in November 2018, supermarkets have quickly pivoted to include hemp products such as protein powder in their health food and specialty sections, but the trendy ingredient has already found its way into mainstream product categories.

Read more

No longer just for hippies: Is hemp the next coconut oil?

  • News
  • March 25, 2019
  • Sarah Dunn
No longer just for hippies: Is hemp the next coconut oil?

The Naturally Good Expo, held over June 2 – 3 in Sydney, will bring retailers, brands and practitioners together to learn about all things healthy, organic and natural. Among the topics discussed by industry leaders at the expo is the recent legalisation of hemp – it’s popping up everywhere. We asked John Leith of supplier Hemp Oz and speaker Susan Tapper of Holistic Marketing Healthy Sales for more information about this exciting new product category.

Read more

Military-style semi-automatics ban announced

  • News
  • March 21, 2019
  • The Register team
Military-style semi-automatics ban announced

As of 3pm on March 21, a wide range of semi-automatic weapons have been reclassified under section 74A(c) of the Arms Act as requiring an E endorsement on a firearms license. This means they can no longer be sold to those with A-category gun licenses, and their purchase now requires police approval.

Read more
Next page
Results for
About us.

The Register provides essential industry news and intelligence, updated daily. And the digital newsletter delivers the latest news to your inbox twice a week — for free!

©2009–2015 Tangible Media. All rights reserved.
Use of this site constitutes acceptance of our Privacy policy.

The Register

Content marketing/advertising? Email or call 022 639 3004

View Media Kit