Containern: A Berlin Dumpster-Diving Adventure

Vegan MoFo Day #9 

After over a year in Berlin, I finally went dumpster diving, or “containern” as you say in German. I had a friend who dumpstered a huge bread factory in the area Pankow, so after reading about it on the Berlin Trash Wiki, I decided it would be a good one to check out. The dumpsters are usually locked away in courtyards, so it’s not as easy as in America, but this dumpster was apparently open and accessible. Around 10pm, which I heard is a good time to go, my friend Monica and I headed out in search of the bakery dumpster. The original spot explained on the Wiki didn’t work out, but after wandering around a bit and following the smell of bread, we went in the parking lot in search of the dumpster.

Being someone whose always afraid of getting in trouble, I almost peed myself most of the time. There was a big open space, well lit, with trucks parked in the middle, then the dumpsters were right next to the factory and some windows. The first time we went to look in a dumpster a man came and got in his car, which led to us scurrying away like idiots behind a truck. The second dumpster was the right one, and it was HUGE and FILLED with rolls, pastries, doughnuts, croissants, loaves, etc. We had to go upstairs RIGHT next to the building to get access to it, also terrifying, but we were successful and both filled a bag with things. Not all vegan, but I fed my flatmates and will surely have some toast in the morning.

JUST as we were about to leave, of course, I saw someone moving from the window of the building so we crouched down quick, terrified, against the wall, before we realized that, oh shit, he was going to throw something out in the dumpster. Flashes of German prison in my mind (okay I’m a bit dramatic), he turned the corner and saw us. I smiled guiltily and just said, “Sorry!” and we began to leave, but to our surprise he just said, “Oh, let me turn the light on so you can see!” and kept going about his business. As he walked away he covered his eyes jokingly to infer that he didn’t see anything and that we could stay. I was still a bit shocked, so I told him to have a good night and off we wandered into the night, walking off the premises just as a security van drove by!

Adrenaline rush, for sure! It was really nice that he was so cool about it, though! If you’re in Berlin, it’s worth checking out, but be careful as there is apparently more security than what the internet says!

Really bad picture of the inside of the dumpster since I was more focused on getting the bread and not getting arrested, but you get the idea. It was FULL and HUGE.

Monica, bread, me and a head lamp! My flatmate lent me this awesome head lamp because we don’t own a flashlight. I didn’t end up using it because it was pretty bright, but still needed an excuse to wear it for something. This picture pretty much sums up the experience.

  1. That’s so great! I really want to go dumpster diving, I live in a great city for it. I too am scared of getting in trouble. I need a good team to go with.

    Vegan CineGrub / Reply
  2. There are amazing grocery stores and bakeries I could dumpster here, and I seriously thought about it last year. However, the one store I really want to dumpster has tons of security and cops all over the place. And there isn’t much crime near that store, so cops would be readily available for the “criminal” who would “steal” trash (bound for a LANDFILL) from a dumpster.

    Why are dumpsters guarded at all? Why is it even a problem to take THINGS PEOPLE HAVE THROWN AWAY out of the trash to put them to good use?

    It’s too late to get me started on this, but, it’s insane.

    Great job, ladies! Keep us abreast of all your dumpstering adventures!

    Vegan Fazool Blog
    MoFo Theme: Homesteadin’ it in October!

    Dawn / Reply
  3. I’ve been wanting to dive forever! Wonderful account!

    Sarah / Reply
  4. Hi Nicole, I posted this on your Facebook page but you might not have been able to read it. Sometimes it shows and sometimes it doesn’t, I don’t understand it.

    Anyway I am posting this here, too, so you will be sure to get the message:

    From: Raw Food

    Hi Nicole, it is Heidrun again… just spent acouple of hours on your blog, I love it – content and your writing style!

    I especially liked your article on “Containern”. My son and his WG mates (some 40+ of them) do it, and from what they narrate I could easily sympathize with your experience!

    Now what astonishes me is that you say Berlin is “vegan heaven”. Each time I am visiting I ask to be taken to a vegan restaurant, but there always seem to be very few. My son is “vegetarian”, but quite a few of his WG mates are vegan, so one should think they should know! Maybe they just do not have enough money to eat out, so when once in a while Mami comes round to offer them a meal in a restaurant they just don’t know where to go (in the neighborhood, that means: they live in Neukölln).

    Here is a series of blog articles about food in Berlin, I thought you might be interested in. I found it quite entertaining! The authors are not vegans, hélas, so reading about these premises does not solve my above mentioned problem.

    Next time I go to Berlin I will ask you first for recommendations on the “Berlin Vegan Heaven”!

    Heidrun Peters / Reply
  5. @Heidrun Peters – Thanks for the compliments, I’m happy you liked the post! I’m surprised no one knew where to go in Berlin for vegan food for you! I’m about to write a vegan in Berlin post for MoFo, so keep an eye out for that! There are loads of places, even in Neukoelln! In fact, I live in Neukoelln too and there’s a cafe called Leuchtstoff down the road that has vegan cake, there’s also Cafe Vux that is an all vegan cafe, an all vegan pizza place called Sfizy and a new fast-food-ish vegan place in Neukoelln, plus more!

    I’ll check out the Berlin food blog you mentioned, looks good! Danke!

    Nicole / Reply
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