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An Elitists Guide to Dumpster Diving - First Things First

Updated on January 23, 2010

A Girls Notes on Scavenging in the Big City

I have had an itch lately. I drive around taking care of my normal affairs, and there, I see it, I see the can out of the corner of my eye and I want to pull over and just jump right in. In my minds eye I can see the glimmering, I can see the gold, I can see the money, I can see the treasure, and its all in that trash can. Maybe even your trash can, do you have good trash? We all do to some body.

At its root it is called scavenging, seeking out and consuming what has been discarded or left behind. In the big city many call it dumpster diving or trashing or the term I like, Scrapping. Finding scraps that you turn into cash or treasure for yourself or for others.

I used to be a novice scrapper. I would retrieve moving boxes, from the local liquor store, or the occasional appliance from the side of the road, and then I remember my mothers’ bedroom on the third floor of a Los Angeles apartment, it overlooked a dumpster, and occasionally there would be a rare find, maybe a remnant of ones spring cleaning, or perhaps they moved out. Or, maybe they died, but there it was, sparkling from a heap of trash, treasure, and now my treasure. After of course racing down there and scaling the side of the dumpster to get in, to get my treasure out, and what was it, it was an old typewriter that changed my life forever!

But, as fortune found me, so it had left me, later in my life I became homeless, destitute, hungry and poor, more on that later, but the trash bin became my friend, and I learned where and how to really do it, Dumpster Dive that is. I learned how to find practically anything, and if you are brave, curious, thrifty, ambitious, lucky and not scared of a bit of dirt or old chow mein, listen and I will tell you my secrets.

Now before we begin, first things first.

As with all good things, there are rules to follow, and especially with dumpster diving, there are certain laws and protocols.

Is it legal?

Well, if its on TV, like Law and Order, then it should be. It is legal to go through someones trash, yes. But what is considered trash? What do you consider trash? For the most part go with your gut and common sense, but there are a few things I would like to go over here.

Trash is: When it is no longer on the persons property it is disposed of. You can’t just go into someones yard and take something. Even though that pink flamingo should be trash, its called stealing. So, keep it in the street. Dumpsters in the street are fair game. So are dumpsters in parking lots as far as I know.

If the can is behind a locked gate, leave it alone. That is trespassing.

If the can is in a parking lot where there is security, it’s a crap shoot. Keep it tidy and the chances are security won’t bother you. If they do, tell them you ARE RECYCLING and either go on your way or continue recycling. Everyone wants to save the planet now don’t they.

Donations…. They are a special story. You can find all kinds of incredible things at donation sites such as goodwill. While living on the street, I purchased a trailer to tow behind my car. I decided to go check out the donation site after hours, to see if there was any illegal dumping going on (when someone drops off donations outside of donation hours) and low and behold I found a plethora of camping supplies including a beautiful pocket knife, beach chairs, and my favorite, army issue insulation mats for sleeping on. Those mats got me through a rough winter. And there they were, at exactly the right time. Other times that I have gone I have found tons of cool and bizarre stuff. They have lots of baby toys, because they reject them, a ton of clothes, tools without their chargers, oh and ah, kitchen appliances – I haven’t scored a kitchen aid yet, but I have come up on a professional grade juicer, a food processor, and the ever handy blender. Dishes galore, and always some sort of arts and craft project sadly discarded. I found about a thousand dollars in yarn once, all different kinds of course, and now I have an extremely happy knitting friend out of state.

The way that this stuff gets there is that people will illegally dump and leave their donations after hours, either that or the donations are rejected. But okay here is the downside, though one might argue that they are helping to fix a wrong – the illegal dump, I have heard from the men that work these donation locations that these goods are off limits and may be under surveillance from special super secret locations. Now that I have found out this information I have decided to stay away from my 'magic spots' aka donation locations. What do you think?

There are some towns that outlaw dumpster diving of any kind where if you are caught poking through anyones trash it is an automatic fine of hundreds of dollars. I have never heard of jail time for such a thing, but I haven't heard of many things. It's a good idea to check out your local laws or ask around as I would hate to inspire someone for them to turn around and get slapped with a $500 fine. That would take a lot of recycling to pay that off.

Now my first question is to you, do you ever drive around and see good stuff on the side of the road or in alleys? What is the most amazing thing you saw? Did you get it?

Please read on where I discuss how to be safe and what to stay away from while dumpster diving!

Why not read them all?! Other exciting hub posts that can be found in this series are:


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    • peggypat profile image

      Peggy Patrick Medberry 7 years ago from Los Angeles

      What a fun post!!! Wow.. I have lots of stuff in my house that was someone else's trash. Amazing what people will throw away.. Enjoyed this a lot!!