Though it may appear strange to some, dumpster diving is a great way to ensure that pretty fine items do not go to waste. Dumpster diving does not require any special skills or equipment, but it is vital to be aware of the risks and learn the best way to avoid illness or legal trouble.
How Does Dumpster Diving Work?
Dumpster diving is the practice of searching through trash cans, bins, and bags, usually those connected with stores, in an effort to recover potentially usable items and food that have been carelessly discarded.
Whether it’s to free up space on the shelves or to avoid having to put luxuries on sale, stores routinely destroy and discard excess, unsold goods and food.
However, in the field of information technology (IT), dumpster diving is a strategy used to extract data from discarded items that could be used to launch an attack or gain access to a computer network.
Dumpster diving isn’t just looking through trash for things like sticky-noted passwords or access credentials that are obviously valuable. A hacker using social engineering tactics may utilize perfectly harmless information, such as a phone book, calendar, or organizational chart, to help them access the network.
Despite its bad reputation, dumpster diving really benefits society by helping to divert materials from the trash stream. And thankfully, lots of people are prepared to invest the time and energy necessary to give food and merchandise another chance before they end up in a landfill.
Who Dumpster Dives?
Anyone who wishes to live more frugally, from travelers to students to folks on a tight budget. Dumpster diving is also popular among those who seek to live a more ecological lifestyle. These people call it “urban foraging.” Over one-third of the food thrown away in dumpsters is perfectly edible, and it’s simply tragic that so much food is wasted each year.
Every year, 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted and end up in landfills. This is an outrageous amount of money spent on meals! Every year, the United States wastes $165 billion on food! Dumpster diving is something that so many people these days undertake to prevent food from going to waste. Dumpster diving is a smart money-saving strategy if you’re traveling across the world on $10 per day!
If you know where to look, being an expert dumpster diver may provide anything from a fresh lunch to as-good-as-new clothes.
How to Do It Correctly?
Before you start looking for treasures in the trash, you need to first learn about dumpster diving rules to avoid getting in trouble. Because trash is not considered private property, you will not be prosecuted for theft if you are found dumpster diving, but you should be cautious about trespassing.
Trespassing and scavenging regulations vary widely depending on where you are, so do some research on the rules and what is regarded as permissible in your region before venturing out. When it comes to the law, dumpster diving is sometimes a bit of a hazy area. Make no attempt to appear suspicious, and if you do come into contact with police enforcement, be courteous and obey their directions-if they tell you to leave, leave. Be warned that some businesses enforce these restrictions while others do not.
The best time to dumpster dive is early morning, just after daybreak. There is fewer personnel available to interrupt during these times, and many grocery shops discard day-old goods first thing in the morning. It’s simpler to see in the morning, clearly, than attempting to carry a flashlight and crawl about in stinky trash at night.
SEE: What is a Landfill?
Where Is the Best Dumpster Diving Spot?
Dumpsters are commonplace, and you may never know what you could find. Although you may search through dumpsters and garbage cans anywhere, there are a few locations where good items are typically more common.
The following hotspots are worth taking into account the next time you go dumpster diving.
According to estimates, 30–40% of food produced in the United States is wasted. Even while food waste is a major issue on many levels, there is some good news for dumpster divers. You probably reside close to a grocery store, which is adding to the issue. This equates to a dumpster that is full and ready for pickup.
Always use common sense and caution while removing food from a dumpster. Make sure not to eat any rotten or tainted food. We specifically advise avoiding raw meats.
Building and remodeling sites
Dumpsters at building sites often include a wide range of high-quality items. Construction items are fantastic for anybody who enjoys nice projects but wants to economize on resources. They range from leftover paint and wood scraps to bricks and old cabinets.
You could even uncover larger items like kitchen cabinets or furniture if the location is being renovated. The owner may be merely upgrading the inside, even if these pieces are in fantastic shape. It’s a lucky effort for you, regardless of why they threw it away.
Residential Curbside Cans
People often dispose of perfectly nice items in the garbage, including new clothing and kitchenware. Digging through home garbage cans that have been left on the curbside can be quite unexpected, but it may also be very profitable.
The majority of people who often redecorate and discard expensive goods on the curb are those who live in wealthy districts. This is particularly true in the spring when individuals are more likely to engage in some spring cleaning. All you need to do is remember when trash pickup day is and arrive early.
Numerous retail establishments offer lenient return policies. Never before has returning undesired things been so simple, with policies ranging from accepting returns without a receipt to giving you a full year to do so. What occurs to all of those returns, then?
If it can’t be put back on the shelves, it could get a one-way trip to the trash. The shop can determine it can’t be resold if the packaging is destroyed. Returning things to the manufacturer is frequently not financially advantageous. This leads to a dumpster that is loaded with goods.
Stores like Best Buy, Office Depot, and Staples provide a broad array of products, many of which are wonderful trash discoveries. These products range from demo models to scuffed office furniture to minor goods with torn packaging (think headphones, charging cords, and DVDs).
Tips for Successful Dumpster Diving
It might be difficult to shake the perception that dumpster diving is nasty and unsanitary—after all, most people throw things out for a purpose! However, if you get over that idea, you’ll be surprised at how many valuable goods may be scavenged with a little preparation and knowledge.
Follow these guidelines for successful dumpster diving:
Search for items that aren’t in dumpsters
If the thought of really going through the trash does not appeal to you, ease yourself in by collecting objects that have been put around the trashcan but are not actually in them. This might include larger pieces of furniture, recyclables, and even food boxes near stores.
Wear the right gear
Dumpster diving isn’t a runway display. An old pair of coveralls is the best thing to wear for garbage diving. For hygiene and safety reasons, long pants and sleeves, as well as closed-toe footwear, are required. There will be no flip-flops or heels! Wearing protective equipment (particularly work gloves!) when trash diving can keep you safe.
Thick labor gloves will keep you safe from wounds and dirt. In dumpsters, there are some germy, dirty things you don’t want to handle with your bare hands! (That is, among the treasures!) You’re not going to have a good time if you show up in flip-flops and shorts and are unprepared for a day of garbage treasure hunting.
Keep yourself safe
Dumpster diving can be dangerous; if someone has thrown out anything sharp, you could injure yourself severely if you touch it carelessly. Handle everything with caution and keep an eye out for any things that might cause you damage, such as used needles, broken glass, and sharp metal.
Clean up after yourself
After scavenging an area, make sure to clean up after yourself out of regard for your surroundings. That includes returning any garbage bags to the dumpster and leaving the place as you found it.
Is Dumpster Diving Illegal in My State?
Dumpster diving is technically legal in all 50 states, owing to the California vs. Greenwood Supreme Court decision. There is no expectation of privacy when the trash is thrown out in “public.” Furthermore, by dumping the objects in the trash when the receptacle is in a public place, the discarding person effectively relinquishes ownership of the items.
However, in this context, the concepts of “public” and “reasonable expectation of privacy” are frequently contested. Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s rulings only apply if they do not clash with municipal ordinances. As a result, local ordinances may exist that specify when the behavior is or is not lawful.
You can learn more about situations that can make dumpster diving illegal and how to stay safe from our complete answer to the question: Is dumpster diving illegal?