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Dumpster Diving for Recreation, Profit, and Sustainable Living

Photo byRomuald Bokej / Stockholm, Sweden

Going through other people's garbage: repulsive to some, inviting to others- intriguing to all!

Dumpster diving is the term that is used to describe the act of going through other people's garbage. It is not at all a new concept. Traditionally, people who were down and out were forced into dumpster diving. But more and more, dumpster diving is being taken up by people in all walks of life. The reason? Our society becoming a throw away one. These days so many people simply toss perfectly good items or put them on the curb when they no longer want or need them! That can mean free food and household items for anyone willing to intervene with the date with the trash truck. Or, one can make a profit by selling these goods!

Safety First: Tips for Dumpster Diving

Before dumpster diving, it is helpful to take a look around the area you are interested in. Make sure that the trash dump is not a compactor, as one can be crushed in a dumpster of this sort. And, be sure that they are no medical or toxic waste signs on or near the dumpster.
Also, it is a good idea to wear gloves when dumpster diving. This protects your hands from being cut or scraped and is also more sanitary. A head light will help to guide the way during this venture as well, as extra light is often needed to look into bags, trashcans, and dumpsters. And, if going in trash bins, a grabber can be quite handy to fetch items in hard to reach places.
Being that most dumpster diving takes place late at night, it is smart to go in groups. There is definitely safety in numbers. One can find dumpster diving buddies on Meetup.com, where there are currently 20 dumpster diving groups. Alternately, one can start a group of their own.

Dumpster Diving for Food

Many people go dumpster diving for food. Doing this either supplements their grocery bill or takes the place of it altogether. If one chooses to eat simply, creatively, and only what they find it is possible to eliminate the grocery bill altogether. Some have claimed to have done just that. Most, however, seem to use dumpster diving to supplement what they purchase.
Larger cities often put bags of trash on the sidewalk either every evening, or certain nights of the week. Dumpster divers then go through these bags of 'trash' before they are collected. Some finds from this type of dumpster diving are fresh fruit and vegetables, baked goods such as doughnuts and bagels, and packaged goods.
Stores in smaller cities often dispose of their waste exclusively in dumpsters, often behind the establishment. These dumpsters are usually dumped about once a week, however it is a good idea to learn which day or days of the week food is thrown away in order to collect the food when it is freshest. Anything the particular store sales is likely to end up in the dumpster at some time or another, as all food that is not sold is thrown out either at or shortly before the expiration date. And, items that are not sold and not returned to the manufacturer end up in the dumpster as well, such as books and magazines- albeit with covers removed.

Dumpster Diving for Fun and Profit

Some people just love to go out there and see what they can find to use for their own household. Many people have had success finding usable items in residential dumpsters, especially in apartment complexes. What one can find is seemingly limitless- appliances, computers, clothes, dishes, baskets, etc.
Furniture can often be found on the side of the road awaiting trash pickup. Acquiring items in this way is often called Curb Shopping. Many people simply put these larger items that they no longer want to side of the road for the sake of convenience. In instances like this, one persons trash is often another's treasure.
Some people take trash collecting a step further. They keep an eye out for items in good condition that they do not particularly want, but think others may be interested in. They then sell them at places such as flea markets, or online at websites such as Craigslist or eBay. This can be quite lucrative if one knows which items to be on the lookout for. Alternately, some use discarded items to create works of art.
There are several websites online devoted solely to dumpster diving. If this activity interests you and you would like to find out more about it, meet other people who do it, and see other people's finds you may interested in visiting http://dumpsterworld.com and http://trashwiki.org.
  • ""Dumpster Diving" for Fun and Profit: A Source of Antique Treasures, Vintage Collectibles, and Items Waiting to Be Turned Into Art." TheLivingWeb.net:SuperPortal: Creative Ways to Live Frugally, Stay Healthy, Make Money, Keep Informed, and above All, Have Fun! Web. 04 May 2010.
  • "Dumpster Diving." Frugal Living by Sara Noel. Web. 05 May 2010.
  • "Dumpster Diving." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 05 May 2010.
  • Willhite, By Nikki. "Dumpster Diving." How To Be Frugal: Tips for Saving Money and Frugal Living. Web. 05 May 2010.

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