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Trash Clan

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  • Dan Clore
    News & Views for Anarchists & Activists: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/smygo The New York Post TRASH CLAN By JOSHUA M. BERNSTEIN February 29, 2004 -- On a
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 29, 2004
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      The New York Post

      February 29, 2004 -- On a recent Thursday night at an
      upscale Upper East Side café, Wendy Sher, 24, and John
      Phillips, 18, settled into comfy chairs to discuss garbage.
      They were disappointed, though; they had been expecting more
      garbage aficianados to join them.

      Sher and Phillips are devoted dumpster divers -- people who
      regularly and gleefully pitch themselves into any of the
      dumpsters lining the city's streets, digging through mounds
      of trash in search of buried treasure.

      The two were brought to this café through the Web site
      meetup.com. More than 70 people signed up on the site for
      tonight's meeting.

      But the low turnout at the café wasn't totally unexpected:
      Why should dumpster divers buy food when they find it in the

      Divers like Sher and Phillips scour the city, searching for
      food, clothes and even used accordions. They are not alone.

      New York divers range from anarchists Food Not Bombs -- who
      collect discarded food to fuel their soup kitchen -- to
      artists hunting for materials to, possibly, you. Just where
      did that coffee table in your living room come from, anyway?

      For many, dumpstering is more than a haphazard junk grab --
      it's a passion. Rustin Wright, 37, a professional organizer,
      has been diving since 1981.

      Over the past 23 years, he has recovered everything from a
      maple veneer desk to a tweed jacket to stainless-steel
      shelves scavenged from a Sony movie theater.

      Diver Wright attributes his scores to "lots of people with
      great taste and not enough space."

      The Brooklyn-based Black Label Bike Club lives -- and lives
      well -- by the dumpster. Black Label, which has over 20
      members, has found food, beer, magnetic poetry and
      prosthetic limbs.

      Their specialty, though, is revamping found bikes. Club
      members create tall bikes (frames welded onto frames,
      towering skyward), swing bikes (front wheel spins 360
      degrees) and the bronco which, like a bucking bull, is
      impossible to ride.

      Doyle attributes the bike bounty to unnecessary waste. "It's
      easier for people to buy something new rather than fix it,"
      he says.

      28-year-old artist Brian Matthews' expertise is fixing --
      and rethinking -- cast-offs. "Tools are the gatekeepers to
      newly refurbished toys and science experiments," he says.

      Using found treasures such as treadmills, 16 mm Kodak
      cameras and copper cable, Matthews has constructed
      pneumatic-powered wings, puppet shows and even a catapult
      out of trash.

      "When I discover a piece of tasty junk . . . it is as if a
      golden light bathes me in the moment," Matthews says
      rhapsodically. "I hear squeaky voices coming from stuff I
      find: 'Help me! I don't want to end up in stinky New Jersey!'"

      What does end up in landfills is food. According to a U.S.
      Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, one-quarter of
      America's food, or 96 billion pounds yearly, is wasted --
      much of which, divers say, can be reclaimed.

      Doyle says Black Label acquires most of its staple foods
      from dumpster-diving. "Besides," he suggests, "by taking
      food from dumpster, companies will pay less in composting fees."

      Some hardcore divers, though, can't make that leap. "My
      paranoia about germs keeps me in the Safeway," Matthews says.

      "You've got to be somewhat careful [about diving for food],"
      Wright says, pausing. "Stew, however, will cover many sins."

      For more information on future meetups, visit

      Dan Clore

      Now available: _The Unspeakable and Others_
      Lord Weÿrdgliffe & Necronomicon Page:
      News & Views for Anarchists & Activists:

      "It's a political statement -- or, rather, an
      *anti*-political statement. The symbol for *anarchy*!"
      -- Batman, explaining the circle-A graffiti, in
      _Detective Comics_ #608
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