Monday, December 11

A Look At Dumpster Diving

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All right, dumpster-diving isn’t for everyone. It can be dirty, inconvenient and downright dangerous. But what a great resource! Just look at what some people have pulled out of dumpsters or plucked from curbs:

            Food – good food, too! Meat, veggies, pastry, fruit, you name it. Anything that has gone out of date


            Power Tools


            Computers and peripherals

            Radios and TV

            Vacuum cleaners

            Telephones and answering machines


            Lawn mowers

            Sewing machines and

                        Much, much more…!

 We are indeed a wasteful society. Recently in New York, a city economic development official reported that the city paid $277 million dollars per year  to dispose of its garbage in landfills. The Environmental Defense Fund says we Americans throw away enough aluminum every three months to rebuild our entire commercial airplane fleet!  Think about it – the entire fleet, in three months! Recycling just one aluminum can saves enough energy to run a TV for three hours, and dumpsters are full of aluminum cans and plenty of other valuable goods. Goods you find can be sold at garage sales, given as gifts in a Nordstrom bag, sold for scrap or pawned. So why not try it?


 First, check with your county and city officials to see if dumpster-diving is illegal where you live. You don’t want to get arrested head down in a dumpster. This is MOST important.

 You’ll also need:

             A long pole with a hook on it, so you don’t have to wade around among the coffee grounds and dirty cat litter. A hoe will work.*

            A good light (a headlamp works well, look for it where they sell bicycles) or a flashlight will do. Tie a string around it and carry it in your mouth to leave

            Your hands free.

            A step stool to raise you to the right height.

            Trash bags to carry your loot

            Anti-bacterial wipes or lotion

            First Aid kit for accidents

            Appropriate clothing – stout boots, heavy gloves, jacket. Needless to say, anything you have actually brought home in a Nordstrom bag will be left behind. 

*A further word about these poles. You may want to invest in an “Unger Nifty Nabber” recommended by “The Dumpster Lady” ( This is a long (51”) pole with pinchers on the front and a handle on the other end you squeeze to operate the thing. You can get the long one for $27 and a 36” one for about $25. The Dumpster Lady recommends LM Colker Supply,, or call them toll-free at 800-533-6561.


Look behind apartment houses and condos. Just do a few “drive-bys” while you work up the nerve to actually do it. Do some research: find out which day is garbage day, and get there before the pros show up. Try stationery stores, bakeries, toy stores, bookstores, florists, beauty shops and supply houses, small appliance stores, computer outlets – almost any kind of retail will be tossing stuff out. It may not be valuable to them, but it might be what you’ve been wanting, for years!

Shopping centers and malls are rich in treasures just waiting for you to rehabilitate them.


Go whenever you feel most comfortable going. Some divers like to dive at night, but there are liable to be cops and other suspicious characters abroad then. Many divers like to take a partner with them at night. Early in the morning, before the stores open and the town is quiet might be the best time, around 6:00-8:00 a.m. Weekends are good, too.


Avoid hospitals. Their dumpsters are full of body parts, needles and syringes contaminated with who knows what. This goes also for clinics, medical laboratories, and doctors’ offices as well. Whatever is in their dumpsters, you don’t need.

 Watch out also for dumpster lids – if they’re only propped up, they could fall and decapitate you. This activity is not for the squeamish! Put them all the way down if you can. Naturally, you will be cautious about sharp objects and squishy things like dead dogs and cats.

 Never, NEVER, under any circumstance EVER try to get into a compactor. Compactors are attached to buildings by chutes. They seldom have lids that can be opened, but they have to get the stuff out some way, don’t they? It’s okay to try to figure out how, but otherwise, avoid them.


 If the dumpster is behind a fence or in any other way enclosed, leave it alone. If it’s locked, leave it alone.

 Clean the dumpster up before you leave, that is, leave it at least as clean as you found it.

 Leave people’s bank statements and other personal records alone.

 Take only what you want. Leave the rest there for someone else.

 Dump your trash in your own dumpster.


 Your enemy is the store employee who hates dumpsters, dumpster divers and everything connected with them. If they catch you, they are liable to tell you to take 12 steps off an 11-step pier, and don’t come back. If they do, say “Yes, sir,” and go and don’t come back. If they ask what you’re doing, tell them you’re moving, and looking for boxes. Of course, if they have any, you’re more or less obligated to take some. Find another store. There are plenty of them.

 There! That’s what you need to know. Bet you can’t wait to get started!


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