The Art of Dumpster Diving


For many, the thought of going near a smelly dumpster, let alone touching, wearing or using the contents from inside of a dumpster is dirty, if not completely revolting. I say it’s wonderful!

Ok, ok, rewind. Though I have never riffled through the trash myself, I must admit to having tremendous respect for those who do. “Dumpster diving,” aka urban foraging, skally-wagging, garbage picking, binning, skip-raiding, skip-weaseling or trashing is very eco—an excellent way to cut back on today’s excessive landfill waste, pollution and rampant squandering of non-renewable resources. Think about it! By salvaging that which is still usable, garbage scavengers, or divers as they’re commonly referred, lower landfill levels while preventing the energy-sipping manufacture of resource-robbing objects.

As Americans hold the not-so-spectacular distinction of producing more garbage per person than any other country (source: Energy Information Administration), “Dumpster Diving” is gaining a newfound respect and practice amongst the environmentally concerned. It’s no longer just for Vancouver’s gutter punks and the hopelessly broke. Now, eco-sophisticates from Scobey to San Francisco (well, duh) are rolling up their sleeves in what many are calling an act of “consumer defiance” and “common sense conservation.” It’s very groovy!

If you think our consumer society and its willy-nilly throwaway mentality have become unbearable, consider taking the plunge—into a smelly dumpster near you. First, a few tips and words of caution . . .

1. Bring A Friend . . . Just in Case the Lid Closes on You

2. Quality not Quantity
Don’t take items that are beyond repair or flat out unsanitary. Do a sniff test, check for burrowing holes and critters. The last thing you want is a four-legged roommate with typhus.

Photo courtesy Disney.com

3. Timing is Everything
Not to capitalize on other’s misfortunes, but the 7th of the month is an excellent day for diving. Evictions happen on the 8th and well . . . it’s a tough world out there.

4. Hit Up the Gold Mines
Nothing says, “plethora of barely-used stuff” like college move-out day. Hung-over and drained from finals, most college students can scarcely move, let alone pawn off their Bed Bath and Beyond Booty. Take advantage. If you live near a university, especially one with rich and lazy students (i.e. Princeton . . .), make friends with the janitors. Pop-up hamper, multi-colored Yaffa Blocks or a water bong . . . you’ll be glad you did.

Photo courtesy swiftspeech.blogspot.com

5. Beware of Compactors
Please, never EVER enter a dumpster that includes a compactor—yes, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’” Shredder survived, but he’s a black belt certified villain. He’s also a cartoon.

Photo courtesy Legos.com

6. You’re Not Above the Law
It’s no surprise that identity thieves use dumpsters to scam your social security number and bank statements. Frustratingly, these few bad apples have ruined it for the honest diver. Several cities punish dumpster diving with heavy fines, even hard time. Research your local laws.

7. Beware of Biohazards
Best to pass up those dumpsters labeled “medical equipment,” “hazardous waste,” or “radioactive.” Also smart to keep up with immunizations.

Photo courtesy freelabs.com

8. Let God’s Creatures Forage Too
Always best to knock politely on the side of a dumpster before entering. This gives the rats, squirrels, possums, coons, black bears or fellow divers a heads up before you bombs away.

Photo courtesy http://clintjcl.wordpress.com/tag/journal/

9. Dress for Success
Sturdy clothing and gloves are a must. If injury prone, consider investing in a rubber onesie (Batman’s rubber bat-suit recently auctioned for 103K). Some seasoned divers advocate a costume to keep hecklers, law enforcement and archetypal do-gooders off your tail. I recommend the double knit-polyester food service uniform and matching hairnet. This makes you look like a hard-working employee, minding your own business and taking out the trash.

Photo courtesy filmnewz.com

10. Tools of the Trade
If you’re especially on top of your game, get one of those poles with a grabber at the end. Those are awesome and come in handy when playing tricks on annoying siblings. A miner’s helmet with attached light is great too, especially for night dives and buried loot.

Photo courtesy cactuspruner.com