Dumpster diver

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It is nearly always good to have a flashlight.

A dumpster diver is someone who takes items that have been discarded (trash), in order to make better use of them, principally by turning them into something usable or edible via dumpster diving.

Why it is cool to be a dumpster diver

Because dumpster diving is:

  • free (as in freedom).
  • free (as in no money).
  • free (as in beer).
  • ecological, a form of waste reduction.
  • fun and can be a nice social activity.

So, I am a diver... What do I need to have?

Sometimes, often or even always you will need:

  • a small flashlight (headlamp is the best)
  • something to pull the stuff to you, some kind of pole with a hook at the end (a hoe maybe?)
  • a stepping stool (can help you reach over the top)
  • bags (backpacks, trash bags, plastic bags, etc.)
  • wet wipes and/or water bottle to clean up with
  • a basic First Aid Kit in case you hurt yourself.

How to dress

  • mind the weather (wind rain snow), union-style is good, as the activity might make you sweat
  • you don't want to catch too much attention
  • you don't want to look like a burglar
  • make sure to wear shoes with thick sturdy soles: dumpsters can be surrounded by broken glass.

Is there something you have to watch out for?

Yes, there are some potential hazards like:

  • never climb into a dumpster with Medical and Hazardous Waste, anyone can throw out a needle that could jab you; wear protective clothing
  • lids can suddenly slam shut when windy
  • sharp objects
  • icky stuff (dead animals...)
  • legal implications

Most common places to look for useful trash... Where are those?

  • dumpsters behind stores that sell merchandise you are interested in, like bakeries, florists, toy stores, bookstores, etc.
  • apartment buildings where people move often and leave stuff behind

Diver's Etiquette

  • Don't leave a mess. Leave the dumpster in no worse condition (or perhaps even better?) than you found it.
  • Avoid making noise - it can wake neighbors up (or attract store employees) and make them call the police.
  • Avoid ripping trash bags - try to untie them if possible, and then tie them back.
  • Take only what you can use, and leave the rest for someone else.
  • Even though some dumpster divers chose to break into locked dumpsters by force, it is recommended to look for those dumpsters which are not locked.
  • If there are other dumpster divers around (often happens at some food markets)
    • Don't take more than you are possibly going to use
    • If you already have too much of something, offer it to other people
    • Leave a trace if you found a whole pile of something hidden away so that others can find the stuff you're not going to take

Basically, try to appreciate the fact that you get stuff or food for free, and don't make life harder for other dumpster divers, especially when you know you won't come to this spot again. You are not alone diving in this world!


See also