People say there is no such thing as a free lunch, but the founder of North Carolina’s most prominent dumpster-diving group hasn’t paid for his in years.
“I firmly believe there is nothing you can’t find if you really look for it,” said Triad Freegans and Dumpster Divers founder, Michael Pierron.
While working full-time and attending school in Greensboro, N.C., Pierron subsisted almost entirely on products he scavenged from area dumpsters.
Initially, he dumpster-dove alone, or with the friend who introduced him to the activity, but he soon became overwhelmed by the quantity of products he found.
“I felt like I was the only one in the world who knew this amazing secret, and I couldn’t possibly use all the stuff from just one store, let alone all of the dumpsters in the whole city. I had a lot of guilt,” said Pierron “I was like, ‘I have to share this to let others see what is happening.’”
Pierron has managed the group’s meetup website and the activities of the group for years now, but in August, he moved to Hawaii to finish his education.
Triad Freegans and Dumpster Divers draw members from across North Carolina. The group serves mostly as a conduit to translate information across county lines, though sometimes the group schedules formal meetings.
Lt. Stan Harris of the Durham Police Department said that incidences with dumpster divers trespassing on private property have decreased in recent years due to an increase in restrictive fencing around dumpsters.
He described an incident in which a man rifling through a bin was cut by the contents of a bin, which he attributes to the increase in fencing.
“He basically got cut on a broken commode, you know, toilet,” Harris said. “Once that commode is broken, it’s sharp and made of glass. That’s the thing, you never know what’s in a dumpster.”
Several Food Lions in the Triangle area reported little to no dumpster diving activity in recent years, though the incidences, said one store employee, are higher in low-income neighborhoods in Durham.
Pierron said he would avoid the low-income neighborhood stores, where a security guard or police officer might be present, and opt for a more affluent location. At these stores he was either ignored by workers or assisted in finding decent products.
“If anyone ever came out of the store or someone else drove up all I would ever say is ‘I am just looking for food,’” Pierron said. “It’s such a simple human struggle, trying to feed yourself.”
Pierron said he has already located dumpsters in his new town of Hilo, Hawaii.
Back in North Carolina, an undisclosed member stands to rise to the ranks of page administrator for the Triad Freegans and Dumpster Divers’ Meetup site.
This article was reported as part of the J753 Reporting and News Writing course at UNC’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication.