Dumpsterdive Like A Pro

There’s nothing cheaper than free and there’s nothing more free than trash. And like the saying goes, one man’s trash is another’s totally sweet HeMan metal lunchbox.

Wikihow, which we just became addicted to this week, offers up a few tips on scrounging for useful items in humanity’s refuse piles.

• Overcome the icky factor.
• Dive with a buddy.
• Bring a poking stick.
• Bring a flashlight.
• Bring a bag.
• Beware of broken glass.
• Avoid food-oriented dumpsters.
• Some places to look behind: book stores, electronic stores, department stores, apartments, toy stores.

Of course, the most important thing to bring along is an active imagination.

You can find food, clothing, magazines, art-project materials, electronics…really, whatever anyone might throw out. There’s some people called Freegans and they only eat food they get from dumpsters. And they’re still alive.

You don’t have to be homeless to dig through trash. Artists, entertainment/cash starved youth, or anyone looking for a different way to save money can benefit.

Have you ever dumpster dived? What advice do you offer for garbage mongers?

How to Dumpster Dive [WikiHow]
Intro to Dumper Diving [Frugal Living]
Dumpster Diving Message Boards [Dumpster World]


Edit Your Comment

  1. SharkJumper says:

    I had some friends (females) who regularly dumpster-dived (dove? diven?) in college. It was their claim that the best stuff was in the dumpsters behind the sorority houses. Apparently, they often found new clothes with the tags still on them.

  2. TVarmy says:

    Pfft. That’s just for ex-pilots. I thought us Consumerist readers have more class. Go to garage sales.

  3. boy says:

    I had a few friends in Chicago who lived next to a bakery. Every night the bakery threw out the unsold breads & assorted tasties. My friends just about lived off that bakery for the year they were there.

    As a side note, apparently in Chicago you can get a scavengers license (don’t quote me on the official name) that lets you dumpster dive and such, or so I hear.

  4. max andrews says:

    I pick up stuff here in NYC all the time on my walk home from school. If you’re a DIY savvy person, you can get tons of free wood and other building materials, as well as lots of useful stuff that people have tossed out since upgrading.

    I picked up a perfectly fine oscillating fan last year, as well as two very nice subwoofers in an enclosure, one of which was broken (explaining why they threw the box out). I looked it up online, and it’s worth $400! I’m currently building a box for it and wiring it into my home theater system.

    There’s really no reason why you shouldn;t recycle this way. Just because its being tossed out doesn;t mean it’s full of germs or complete crap. Think about the stuff we’ve all thrown away, like old VCR’s, broken dvd players, an old boom box, some spare wood from the garage. While no longer of any use to you, those things can be utilized by many other people with different skills and lifestyles.

    As for me, I’ve never had to buy any kind of wood in NYC, and currently have a good collection going of various woods, including birch plywood, hardwood from old bookcases, some pine shelving, a couple good pieces of 1/2″ MDF, some particle board, and a butload of studs and 2×4’s. This is great for me, since I like to build speakers in my spare time. Why let it go to waste? It saves the environment from more junk and saves me money, and that is a deal you can’t beat.

  5. I dive regularly. I also have a real, live library room in my house with built-in bookshelves covering the walls. I read a LOT. The Half Price Books dumpster is an absolute gold mine. When I was visiting it weekly, I got to know what day the garbage truck came, and I’d plan my outings for the day before for maximum selection.

  6. Mary Marsala with Fries says:

    Yay to Kilgore Trout for, um, well, being called Kilgore Trout!!

    Does anybody else see a disturbing proliferation of anti-diving laws and measures, or is that just my corner of the globe? (Yes, dammit, globes have corners.)

    Where I live, companies demand the right to break/destroy everything they throw out, use all kinds of measures to keep divers out, and have the cops patrol and harrass/arrest anyone they catch doing it. Even for food!

    Someone needs to explain to the UltraSelfish in this country that you can’t simultaneously throw something away AND retain total ownership over it. It’s to everybody’s benefit if things are (re)used rather than buried in a landfill.

  7. ckilgore says:

    Growing up in a college town, we often furnished our apartments with dumpster dive finds. That first weekend after the students leave is a real smorgasbord.

  8. Yep says:

    When I lived in SF, “Big Trash Night” was all the rage. Different neighborhoods were assigned different days to put big junk items out on the sidewalk, like appliances or furniture. Station wagons and pickup trucks would roam the neighborhood looking for hidden gems in the wee hours of the morning, before the trashmen came. Entire apartments were furnished that way, I’m sure. Dunno whether they still do that.

  9. RandomHookup says:

    Dumpster Diving: the official inventory provider of eBay.

  10. any such name says:

    in college, the speedway down the street would get new krispy kremes in at like 11p, so shortly thereafter, in a fresh sealed garbage bag, the old ones would be thrown out.
    that’s right. i’m not above day-old donuts. especially krispy kremes…. mmm…

    i also second chicago dumpster diving, or more appropriately, alley searching. in the nicer neighborhoods, and even the shitty hipster kids in the not-so-nice neighborhoods would throw out perfectly usable dressers and chairs and the like. brats.

  11. jacques says:

    I would often leave semi-broken furniture, old electronics, etc outside near the dumpster on nice days when I lived in an apt complex in Chicago. It would get taken almost immediately, if I wasn’t stopped by neighbours before I got there.

  12. zibby says:

    The Salvation Army/Goodwill donations dumpster is also a pretty sweet temporary home, if need be. People put a lot of clothing in those things so it is always nice and warm, and you have first crack at what comes in.

  13. Tonguetied says:

    The Donations Dumpster for Salvation Army and Goodwill etc. is NOT a good place to go diving. That is not trash it’s donations that are intended to be used by the charity they were given to.
    Going after thrown out trash is one thing. Stealing what has been given away is another.

  14. Spaceman Bill Leah says:

    I like that the same crockpot I own is in the photo illustrating dumpster diving. Then again, I bet that’s where my husband found it.

    I also got a lovely steamer trunk in the alley behind my apartment (in Chicago) and I don’t even live in a “nice” area.

  15. dragonleg says:

    Taking anything from Goodwill donation boxes in the part of Florida i live in will get you arrested and a large fine.

  16. max andrews says:

    I used to live in Japan when I was younger, and the diving there is so exceptional there is actually an industry based upon it. Once a month was like a “super recycling day,” which unlike regular recycling day, includes toys and furniture and such. So on this day, all the streets are virtually bursting with often perfectly fine stuff.
    There was a store I used to go there that we called the “gomi” store (gomi is trash in Japanese). They evidently culled all this awesome stuff from these recycling days and then cleaned it up and offered it for sale. They had everyhting from BB guns and N64/SNES games to 45 records and porcalin dolls. All dirt cheap, of course. Good times.