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These people get their food from the dumpster, but still manage to eat like 'royalty'

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These people get their food from the dumpster, but still manage to eat like 'royalty'

WATCH: These young adults dumpster dive to eat.

I eat like a king and I spend almost nothing.
Maximus Thaler

Maximus Thaler is a Ph.D. student at Binghamton University. When he's not hitting the books, he's diving into dumpsters. "[Dumpster diving] is kind of religion for me," he told Circa. Thaler became a devout dumpster diver his freshman year of college. He enjoyed scouring trash cans for edible treasures so much that he started Gleaner's Kitchen, a restaurant where ingredients come from the trash.

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Dumpster Dive

Bruised bananas? No problem. Pro-tip: Dehydrating dumpstered bananas makes them last longer.

As part of his studies, this 26-year-old biology major is gearing up to move into an income-sharing commune in Louisa, Virginia, called Cambia.

Founded in 2015, Cambia is currently home to 5 adults and 1 child. It's one of 9 communes that are in the process of becoming an official member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities.

Residents in these communities will often dumpster dive for food. Cambia, for instance, gets more than 70 percent of its food from the dumpster.

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Food at Cambia

Cambia has an entire kitchen wall lined with shelves of bottled goods from the garbage.

I can go to the grocery store and I can spend $100. Or I can go to the dumpster and not spend anything and I can throw a banquet for all my friends.
Maximus Thaler

In 2015, the average American household spent more than $7,000 a year on food. Divide that by 365 and that's $19 Americans spend per day on store-bought food. Meanwhile, residents at Cambia spend less than $1 per day on food, although most days they're not spending anything at all.

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Dumpster Dive Circa

Not sure if there's a world record for the number of people in a single dumpster at once, but we fit in five of us AND a camera!

Thaler's six-month stay at Cambia is part of his research of intentional communities. His goal is to figure out how communities work and what makes them fail. He notes that they fail frequently.

However, what works at Cambia, and communes like it, is its ability to collect and preserve large amounts of garbaged goods for consumption.

In addition to growing their own produce using the seeds that already come inside their garbage finds, residents at Cambia also brew their own spirits using distilled yeast.

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Dumpster Dive

Dumpster diving is legal in the US, thanks to a 1988 court ruling called California v. Greenwood. The Supreme Court ruled that if trash is on the street, it's in the public domain meaning anyone can look through it or take from it. 

For Thaler and his Cambia comrades, dumpstering is more than just a free meal. It's about one another and this idea of 'togetherness' that drives most of what they do on a daily basis.

"That feeling of like, oh wow, I put in all this labor and now the work that I'm doing is literally sustaining these people that I love," he said. He says one of the biggest misconceptions dumpster diving gets is that the food that's there isn't any good or will make you sick. Thaler says human senses make it easy to tell what's edible and what's not.


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Dumpster Dive

I quickly learned there's an art to the whole diving in a dumpster thing. Pro-tip: Find what's going to give you the best support when trying to climb in and out.

It's no secret food waste is a major problem in this country. According to a 2016 Guardian report, half of all farm-grown produce in the US is thrown away.

Thaler and his friends say they don't consider themselves the solution.

"If I wanted to spend my life really fighting the food waste problem. I’d get a law degree. I’d change the laws," Thaler said. He added: "Me jumping into a dumpster and pulling out some filet mignon or some apples, is not fixing the food problem."


Would you dumpster dive?

Would you give dumpster diving a try if it meant free food? Let us know.

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