It’s late at night when Murray straps on his head torch, grabs his back pack and goes to do his weekly shopping.

At the supermarket instead of entering by the front doors he heads round theDumpster Diving back, leaps over the security fence, and with a quick glance around to make sure the coast is clear, throws back the dumpsters lid and jumps right in. He disappears for a moment before he emerges grinning, a large block of cheese in his hand. Tonight’s shopping is off to a great start.

Close to 1 million tones of organic waste is dumped in New Zealand every year. As the cost of food reaches record highs an underground movement of dumpster divers is rapidly gaining momentum fueled by consumers who are forced to look for creative ways to feed themselves and their families.

 Pumpkins in binMaybe you are beginning to think that these dumpster divers are a few sandwiches short of a picnic. But if the food the divers retrieve from the dumpsters is actually still edible why do supermarkets continue to dump it, when they could sell it at an “eat today price” or give it to food banks for redistribution?\

$750 million dollars of food is wasted annually in New Zealand this could feed over 1 million starving African children for an entire year or ensure no New Zealand kids go without breakfast.

Perhaps we the consumers are to blame for this waste? Because we expect each item of food to be in pristine condition or else we render it inedible. Imagine if each week as you empty your rubbish bin you were to take out your wallet and put a $10 note in the bag. Why? Because statistics show this represents the dollar value of the food each of us throws away every year. 

From Dumpster to Dinner Plate seeks to answer these questions as it follows Murray and his friends, otherwise normal people, who choose to fill their cupboards with food others have deemed inedible.  

Would you be a dinner guest at their table?

Food from the Trash

Director, Producer & Writer: Vanessa Hudson

Camera Operator: Alwin Tan

Audio Recordist: Alex Gilbert

Editor & Music Composer: Alexander Longstaff


Directors Statement:

Before I went to live in London in 2001 I had always thought of it as a very expensive city, and in many respects it is. However after nearly 4 years of living in Europe, I returned to New Zealand and was horrified to find out just how much a trip to the grocery store for a few basic items would now cost me.

Standing in front of the butter in the supermarket, I did a quick currency conversion and was outraged to discover that NZ butter is cheaper in Europe than you can by it in its country of origin. NZ Lamb, something I enjoyed eating often in London was now on the “not likely to afford even at Christmas’ list. We produce this food in our own country yet even after it has travelled half way around the world, a consumer in London can benefit from our top quality food for a fraction of the price we New Zealanders can. How could this be!

The more I looked into the economics of this issue the more frustrated I became. I discovered that food retailers were dumping tonnes of good quality food because New Zealanders couldn’t afford to pay the inflated prices they were being charged. Growers are forced to leave food in the fields to rot because they cannot earn enough from the sale to afford to pay workers to gather it. Yet the supermarkets are putting exorbitant mark ups on these very same goods (sometimes in excess of 1000%) inflating the prices far beyond what the average shopper can pay. It is a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

As I began to research this topic even further I came across an underground organisation of people who are doing something to combat this needless waste. They are Dumpster Divers. People who, under the cover of darkness retrieve food they believe is still edible from the supermarkets dumpsters, extracting it before it’s taken away to become landfill. Many of these dumpster divers live by the philosophy that food is a necessity is should not be a commodity. As I came to understand what these divers do and just how big the issue is of food waste in New Zealand ($750 million/year) I just knew I had to tell this story. To challenge not only the retailers but our own perceptions of what is and isn’t edible.

The aim of “From Dumpster to Dinner Plate” is for consumers to question not only the food retailers but also their own perceptions around food. It is my hope that if enough people become informed and vocal about this issue then food waste policies in New Zealand will be changed. It is my belief that as long as there are people struggling to feed themselves in this world (and this country) no good edible food should ever end up in our landfills.

Contact & Details:

Runtime: 11 minutes

Genre: Documentary Short

If you would like more information about this documentary, a full press pack, or to arrange a screening please contact the producer;

Vanessa Hudson on