Dumpster diving an introduction to the hobby

There is a lot of perfectly good items that people throw out.

It can amaze some as to what people just throw out. Some items can cost hundreds of dollars brand new, but may be had free merely by finding discards.
It can amaze some as to what people just throw out. Some items can cost hundreds of dollars brand new, but may be had free merely by finding discards.
Some people like to dumpster dive for clothes. As many are fashion conscious, one can find plenty of near new clothes if you don't mind last seasons fashions. Wash what you find before wearing.
Some people like to dumpster dive for clothes. As many are fashion conscious, one can find plenty of near new clothes if you don't mind last seasons fashions. Wash what you find before wearing.
Some like to collect metals and sell them to metal recyclers. When copper fetched a high price, some people got "creative" in procuring scrap copper for resale. You will need to follow metal prices to see what is worth the trouble. Be kind! Don't gut
Some like to collect metals and sell them to metal recyclers. When copper fetched a high price, some people got "creative" in procuring scrap copper for resale. You will need to follow metal prices to see what is worth the trouble. Be kind! Don't gut
This is what most people visualize when you say "dumpster diving".
This is what most people visualize when you say "dumpster diving".
Many dumpster divers specialize in recyclable bottles where they can get a cash refund.
Many dumpster divers specialize in recyclable bottles where they can get a cash refund.
In addition to plastic and glass, there are aluminum pop and beer tins that many people collect for a refund.
In addition to plastic and glass, there are aluminum pop and beer tins that many people collect for a refund.

Dumpster diving can be a source of usable goods

For most people, the idea of rummaging through other people's garbage is abhorrent and even repulsive, yet a causal glance as we go out to dispose of yesterdays rubbish reveals an army of people going through dumpsters to locate anything of value. There is a lot that has value that most people just throw out. In this ecology conscious era, there are businesses that will offer cash for scrap metal, cardboard and a host of other items. Some people have made a full time living dumpster diving. Further, this army is going 24/7 in almost all major cities. If for various reasons you decide to indulge in the hobby of dumpster diving, there are several things you need to be aware of before you plunge in. Dumpster diving is not the most sanitary hobby on the planet. There is a lot of stiff competition. If you are witnessed indulging in the hobby, people will have some negative opinions about you. There is the ever present danger of being pummeled by garbage someone is disposing of who does not see you until it’s too late. Bad timing may mean you wind up in a compactor truck. You risk injury and disease from broken glass, used hypodermic needles, ragged tin can lids, nails, tacks and broken wood in a filthy environment. There are bags containing used kitty litter and diapers. Dumpster lids are heavy, so make sure that it is secure and does not fall on you accidentally. You may end up carrying off bed-bugs. The weather is not always ideal, especially if you're a committed hobbyist. Then there is vehicular traffic in narrow laneways where most dumpsters are located. All and all, it's a filthy, stinking, thankless business, so don't wear a tux! But, you are your own boss and sometimes you can literally hot paydirt.


On the positive side, there are tales of people finding a small fortune tossed out by others through carelessness, accident or ignorance. These have included lucky folk who found nearly 20,000 pesos in cash, large quantities of quality smoking marijuana, fully operational appliances, art bric-a-brac, frames, fine furniture, books, long play 33 records, antiques, computers, TVs and so on; the list being almost endless. Some times of the year and month are more productive than others. Just after Christmas and spring cleaning are the best times of the year. End of the month periods when people move are another time that is productive. When a post Christmas with end of the month move is combined, you may get very lucky. The treasures you find may be kept or sold in a flea market or other venue.


If you're going to dumpster dive, prepare in advance. Consider work gloves, they will protect you from the nasty stuff. It is recommend that you obtain a pair of Kevlar type used by security and police as these resist punctures very well. A pole with a hook or a pair of reaching tongs can be useful. Take along a buggy of some sort to carry off your found treasures. Wear clothing appropriate to the occasion. In wet days, rain gear is a must, especially if you are out for a few hours. Maneuvering with an umbrella is clumsy at bets and usually out of the question.


Many locations are now locking their dumpsters to discourage people from diving in. Not all people who dumpster dive are considerate. They often strew the rejects and slop onto the ground outside of the dumpster and make a huge unsightly mess for the landlord to clean up. This negatively impacts those who are looking for anything like recyclable bottles to useful items. As a result of the lockdown, many people are now bagging recyclables and leaving them near the dumpster outside for people who collect them. Further, any item of use like frames, lamps, furniture and the like are often placed outside near the dumpsters instead of in them. Even though some cities have now removed dumpsters in favor of daily collecting, the nature of our current society where people work all shifts, stuff is being placed out around the clock, so the city doesn’t get it all.


It follow from above that residential sources are more productive than commercial ones. Although you may luck out from commercial bins like at malls and constructions sites, these are often patrolled by security and you can be arrested for trespass and theft. Yes, as long as the garbage is on private property, you can at least be arrested for trespass and if you have that old copper piping; theft too; even though everyone knows that it's likely to end up in the landfill. It is best to avoid these if you can as malls in particular have cameras watching and recording everything. Dumpster diving should not be an occasion for getting a criminal record. In California, with the "three strikes and you're out" law, you wouldn't want to wind up in prison for life just for dumpster diving. Go for the stuff that people kindly leave out in the open for you. As long as it is on city property, there is no problem as the city engineers will remove it to the landfill if you don't take it. So in a way, you are doing a service to the environment as well by recycling useful items that still have use in them or that can be repaired.


When you collect your items that are not immediately recyclable, consider the possibility that they have unwanted "guests" like cockroaches and bed-bugs. If you already have these as "pets" then you don't have to be as concerned. Many items will likely need some repair. Fortunately, the local library and internet have answers concerning repair, whether it is reupholstering a found antique set of chairs. Repairing older electrical items (new integrated circuit items are not easily repaired), or other items.


As a rule, avoid food and drink that is put out. This is said as a warning because there are a lot of sickos out there that will poison the food in a bid to get rid of the rising tide and scourge of bums they see all the time. It is even on written record that “You bums should just drop dead”. If you really need food, research at the library for wild edibles or go to a food bank. Think about growing a vegetable garden if you’re positioned to do so. You might even consider guerrilla gardening. Many cities now offer small lots where you can grow food. There are a lot of options here. There are stories in the news of every region where people go out into parks looking for the homeless in order to kill them for sport, like slitting throats and stabbing them. They don't consider in the current bum economy that a new crop of "bums" are those who have recently lost their jobs are now joining the mob already present.


Dumpster diving is unpredictable as to whether and when you will find disposed of treasures. Some days will be great, most a lot of work and a few, completely frustrating. Nevertheless, it can be a rewarding hobby. There are those who have built and furnished houses from found stuff.


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Comments 2 comments

nicomp profile image

nicomp 5 years ago from Ohio, USA

Kevlar gloves: what a great idea. How many Michigan pop bottles will I need to get a good pair?


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada Author

That depends on what an individual pop bottle is worth in Michigan and how much kevlar gloves cost. In BC, bottles typically net from 5 to 20 cents depending on the size and type. At last look, the kevlar gloves will cost $75 CDN. That means 375 bottles that fetch 20 cents each or 1,500 that fetch 5 cents each. That's a lot of bottles. Try finding copper for recycling instead, but be careful!

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