MIDTOWN - For the past year, a New York City woman has been picking through the garbage outside the stores of a pharmacy chain to retrieve merchandise she says is unnecessarily thrown out.
A PIX11 crew followed Anna Sacks as she went from CVS to CVS. Outside one store in Midtown, she picked through three trash bags. In less than 10 minutes, she recovered about $100 worth of merchandise - from vitamins to food to drinks to makeup and much more. In one bag, she found a bottle of vitamins with a price tag of $41. It was not expired and was still sealed.
Sacks says this is typical of what she retrieves.
"There was a lot of merchandise that was superficially damaged," said Sacks. "CVS' policy is, instead of donating them or letting employees take them home, they throw them out."
Sacks says she reached out to CEO of the company and spoke to a regional manager who told her they've gotten permission to partner with charities.
"I waited about a month from the initial conversation, I continued to see a lot of waste," she said. "It seems like no difference, so I started the change.org petition."
The online petition is called "Tell CVS to Donate, Don't Dump" and it's already garnered several hundred thousand signatures. With the goal of changing hearts and minds, she wants to encourage people to pressure the drug store giant to end what she refers to as extreme waste.
"It's excessive and it's unnecessary," said Sacks. "It's literally millions of pounds of useful merchandise they're throwing out. It's almost 10,000 stores across the United States."
"There are many solutions. There are many shelters that would love to have vitamins, ziplock bags, bandaids, tampons all those items," added Sacks. "Many employees who make minimum wage who would love to have these for themselves or to give them to friends or family. I think any amount of usable waste is excessive."
Sacks says she plans to keep her dumpster diving going and posts her findings on Instagram. Her handle is @thetrashwalker. She either uses the merchandise she retrieves herself or gives it to loved ones, churches or shelters, or just gifts them informally. She promises it's all put to use.
"Gifting doesn't have to be official and structured. It could be leaving stuff outside with a free sign 'take this' and letting your neighbors take it," said Sacks.
Sacks says she only goes through trash that's put out on the curb for pickup. She's been doing this for the past year and makes a point to stop off at a CVS several times a week. Sacks promises she is always respectful and never leaves a mess behind; she's always sure to tie the trash bags back up neatly.
In statement, a CVS spokesperson told PIX11 the company works with numerous nonprofit organizations to donate near-expired goods to people in need.
"We work with numerous nonprofit organizations to arrange for damaged or near-expired goods from our stores to be donated to people in need. Last year, we donated about $60 million worth of product to charity, including Feeding America and Feed the Children.
To help ensure that unused products are donated in a safe manner, most consumable products must be at least one month from its expiration date to be eligible for donation. Our product disposal guidelines and procedures comply with applicable state and federal regulations, and they are consistent with that of the retail industry."
Eligible non-profit organizations interested in requesting donated products should contact the CVS Community Relations Department.
Otherwise, unsealable products are disposed of in compliance with applicable regulations, a CVS spokesperson said.