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Dumpster diving! Find your treasures! Dive like a pro!

Updated on November 13, 2014

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Dumpster diving

A diving diva that just located a beautiful piece of artwork!
A diving diva that just located a beautiful piece of artwork! | Source

The Art and Science Of Dumpster Diving

Dare to go dumpster diving!

You can learn to dumpster dive like a pro. Bear with me here...

When you're a cheapskate, tightwad, frugally minded individual, any thought of ways to save money or find treasure is a turn on, and super exciting! You may already be having heart palpitations simply from finding this article!

In a past life I may have been a scavenger, perhaps a lobster, I’m not sure. Either way, I’m not ashamed of my thrifty ways. It could be age related, but I find the older I get, the less I care what people think of this particular behavior. I work hard; I’ve never been on welfare, food stamps, disability or public assistance! I love finding usable items that are FREE! The thrill is not only in the cost, but in the actual search and hunt. You just never know what you’ll find! I feel I'm very blessed for all I've worked for, I don't consider myself poor, or under priveledged, this is just another activity to supplement your richness!

Being the tightwad, cheapskate that I am, and living in a busy household and environment, any opportunity I encounter to save money, up-sell, reuse, and re-purpose is going to get my full attention. I understand many will argue this is crossing the line of frugality. But if you have no shame, then you have game to dumpster dive! And I'm going to tell you how to do it!

Waste not want not

Americans are grossly wasteful. Most are snobby, pretentious, feel entitled to "new" things and are often unreasonably afraid of germs. Think about it, you're more likely to get sick or catch the flu from riding the local bus or subway. But because of these generalizations, most people will be repulsed if not absolutely sickened at the thought of dumpster diving. However, anyone brave enough to over-look these points can be greatly rewarded when exploring these forbidden urban crevices, caves, caverns and well to put it bluntly...GOLDMINES!

Pro's to dumpster diving

  • Can be highly profitable-find clothing, furniture, toiletries, jewelry, electronics, pet supplies, toys, antiques, other treasure, even food & medications!
  • It's fun
  • It's environmentally responsible
  • It's a great activity for urban and city dwellers
  • It's fun to do with a friend!

Con's to dumpster diving

  • It can be time consuming
  • It's messy
  • You can get in trouble if the dumpster you dive is located within a gated space or marked "no trespassing", so be mindful of that!
  • If you have any doubts of diving in a certain dumpster or location, call the business owner or the local police department to make sure you're allowed.

Supplies and tips for your dive

Some basic supplies should be used when going on a diving expedition.

  1. A flash light, screwdriver, and folding knife
  2. Heavy yet easy to move in gloves.
  3. Non-descriptive durable clothing.
  4. A bag, or other backpack, sack, or satchel to carry treasure away.
  5. Keep in the car- boxes and bags for sorting items, and a can of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes or other disinfectant. When a dive ends, thoroughly wash your hands and clean treasures.
  6. Always wear thick soled shoes or boots.
  7. A diving stick-think broom handle to push and pick through dumpster with. Or a stick with a nail attached for poking and prodding. Antenna's and walking canes work great too. When you find a dumpster full of treasure, search it thoroughly.
  8. A comfy well fitted hat, or hair ties to tie hair back with.
  9. Dive in the early evening, or at night. The reasoning behind this is because people normally put out their trash at night, and business owners put it out at the end of the business day.
  10. Become invisible. You are more likely than not going to encounter strangers on your dive. Pretend they do not exist. Your activities will more than likely make them uncomfortable, ignore it.
  11. When possible, go with a buddy for safety.
  12. Do NOT take items located outside of a dumpster, or other items not clearly labeled as trash. Taking from a dumpster is not stealing. When items are clearly marked as "trash" ownership has been abandoned.
  13. Do NOT make a mess. Leave the dumping site cleaner than how you found it. Throwing items out of your way when diving is still littering.
  14. Have fun!
  15. Stay open minded! Don't go looking for particular items, you're unlikely to find them.

Safety suggestions when diving

  1. If confronted by a store owner or manager and asked to vacate, consider just relocating to a new diving location. There are plenty of uncharted waters to find treasure, afterall treasure is what you're after, not trouble. If confronted by strangers, a simple "I'm looking for boxes" should send them away.
  2. Keep an eye and ear out for animals and other scavengers; mice, rats and raccoon's could be looming. It is highly unlikely you'll encounter these creatures, but none-the-less, be mindful.
  3. Be considerate of other divers you may encounter.
  4. Never get into a dumpster, this is just unsafe and a big bad idea. If you can't reach an item solo or with the help of your buddy, leave it.
  5. Finally-do NOT dive barehanded. Because objects such as glass, chemicals, and even potential bio-hazards can be found gloves should ALWAYS be worn.

*** Stay ahead of the expedition by scouting dumpsters you plan to raid. Dumpsters have to be accessible from the road for refuse to pick them up. Take advantage of Google Maps, virtual resources and even physically viewing your dump ahead of time!

Free groceries!


Where to go diving!

Residential dumpsters-apartment complexes and dorms. If you happen to live in one of these locations you can also have a quick dive when depositing your own weekly trash. As for dorms, go 2-3 days before the "move-out" date, call the University to get those dates, or look online. Many students throw out brand new items simply because they lack space to take it home! Choosing schools with higher tuition often produces better finds!

Residential homes-Drive by diving. Find furniture, appliances, even scrap metal. The treasure is endless.

Motels and hotels-endless free soap and toiletries.

Discount stores-unopened vitamins, medications, household goods, clothing, cleaning supplies.

Wholesale florist shops-greeting cards, craft supplies, and quick bouquets for loved ones.

Candy and toy stores-self explanatory, but great for gifts.

Garden centers-many plants, seeds and supplies can be revived with a little TLC.

Bookstores-you'll never be without a cheesy romance novel again!

Grocery stores-find dent and bent canned goods, boxed goods, bakery, bread, recently expired prepackaged food, even fruit and produce! However, anything leaking, bulging, or obviously opened should be avoided.

All of these locations can be absolute goldmines during holidays when people are more wasteful than normal.

Why do people and business owners throw this stuff away? Most of the time the cost to repackage, resell, reuse, or dispose of outweighs profit. Individuals, especially younger people are lazy and less likely to recycle or donate. One mans trash is another mans treasure.

Pro diver

Now that you're a well rounded, conserving individual, have fun and enjoy your expeditions.

Proudly display the DDU Diploma you're about to purchase from Ebay! You've earned it!

You've officially obtained your Doctorate of Dumpster Diving.

© 2014 Rebecca


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    • mactavers profile image


      3 years ago

      I'm not into dumpster diving but your Hub is very interesting. Many cities have days where larger items can be placed by the curb for disposal and I've found several nice pieces of furniture.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      5 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Finding treasures at dumpsters works for many people but not for me. Great hub with interesting thoughts.

    • Bishop55 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from USA

      Hi Healthyannie...yes google plus away. Thanks for asking and I'm glad you enjoyed this! :)

    • Healthyannie profile image

      Annie Messeri 

      5 years ago from Spain

      This is a really great article, I love up cycling stuff and you have inspired my to put some of my ideas in an article. Thank you. May I Google plus this article please . . .

    • Christy Kirwan profile image

      Christy Kirwan 

      5 years ago from San Francisco

      I'm not brave enough to dumpster dive, but I do occasionally curb shop. I'm pretty impressed by some of the neat you can find from your suggestions!

    • fiona69 profile image

      Margaret Fiona 

      5 years ago from New York City, USA

      That's a very interesting subject you choose and very nice hubs

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 

      5 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      What an interesting subject! I have often been guilty myself of putting things in dumpsters that others could use...and I'm a rabid op shopper, so I know the thrill of getting bargain, cheap or FREE goodies! Here in Australia they have a hard rubbish day, where people throw out furniture on the street and millions of people help themselves. Is there a similar scheme for this where you are? Voted useful and rated.

    • Bishop55 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from USA

      Flourishanyway...Link away.

      Thanks Glassvisage & Klw1157...I love comments!

      I figure if you can disinfect it or wash it, why can't we reuse it? My neighbor dives other neighbors, she's saved tons on kid toys-the huge Step2 type of stuff, tents, all kinds of things. The metal collectors in my town are quick. We put a bike out years ago before recycling metal and it was gone in 10 minutes. I've gotten clever about only going to thrift stores on days when I can get %20 off, plus use a discount card for another %35. I think I'm starting to squaek when I walk I'm so cheap

    • glassvisage profile image


      5 years ago from Northern California

      Very interesting! I am all about being frugal and I have somewhat dumpster-dove in college at the end of the year when the students are moving or graduating and throwing out perfectly fine belongings (by somewhat, I mean I would pick up what was left outside the dumpsters but never went for that extra step of going inside the dumpster ;) I'm glad you included a lot of information about staying safe while doing this.

    • klw1157 profile image

      Kevin Washburn 

      5 years ago from Macon, GA

      Interesting article, while I wouldn't say I consider myself to be a dumpster diver, certainly not certified, I do classify myself as a junk man and have made a living (at least partially) over the last 4.5 years by redoing and selling much of what others have discarded. It is a terrible shame how much we waste in this country as opposed to other lands. Perfectly good, usable, wearable, edible items are thrown away every day. I am with you in concept and since my focus is mostly furniture and home accessories, I can say with certainty that my heart does beat a little faster when I see that someone has left an old chest or chair out by the street for the trash man. I have no shame in taking it cleaning it up, repairing it if need be and selling it. The money I make doing that spends (or saves) just as well as any I make doing anything else. Again this was good work I will enjoy following and reading future hubs!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Terrific hub on an entertaining and unusual topic. I'd love to link this on my Frugal Engineering hub if you wouldn't mind. My dad has come home with some real finds as a result of scoping out a high income neighborhood on trash day. If it's at the curb, it's free game. I don't dumpster dive but was almost tempted when during the Xmas season I returned excess, unopened tree lights to Target. I was told all such items went in the trash, even if unopened. I hope someone went diving and used them. Great hub, again. Up+++ and sharing, pinning.

    • Bishop55 profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from USA

      Same here! I have not done food either, but...I'm not against it. I've got a task list to call a few of my favorite hotels here soon and make sure I can dive there! LOL. Idk why, but this entire topic just makes me laugh and smile. I'm so past the disgust of it. When others are starving to death and generally going without (everything) in 3rd world contries, any negativiy on this topic can just be ignored instantly!

      As for the furniture comment you made...I've found a $5 can of epoxy paint can fixe anything lik e new the stuff is amazing! Thanks for your ccomment! Hope you have a great day.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      5 years ago

      I live in a complex where there are big dumpsters and I will occasionally pull furniture out to refinish and paint decoratively-- some I've sold over the years. I have yet to take any food out of a dumpster, though, but you make it almost seem tempting. I'm totally a waste not, want not kind of person. Great hub!


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