“Trash Eaters.” an ethnography of the freegan community of New York City, explores what it means to eat trash, by choice, in an urban metropolis. Freegans aim to remove themselves as much as possible from the conventional economy; they find, repurpose, share, and barter to obtain food and other necessities, including gleaning from garbage bags left on the street. This paper investigates city waste, the quantity and quality of edible food within the trash, and the tricks and techniques “trash eaters” employ to find and harvest the edible found food. Additionally, the paper traverses the beliefs and taboos that come from crossing a social boundary, from the sidewalk to the trash heap, and the value that can come from the transgressive action: self-sufficiency, reinvention, and wasting less.

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