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An Elitists Guide to Dumpster Diving - Know Your Can Before You Jump

Updated on January 23, 2010

Safety First - In this case its important to know what you are getting into.

But now I would like to discuss some saftey issues and what to stay away from when you get out there to do your dumpster thing.

Is it safe?

Some places just aren’t safe, and some cans are really not safe. Here are some guidelines to follow below, I advise it.

Stay in fairly safe areas, they may be deserted (the less people around the better) but keep it safe. Try not to dive in and around shanty towns, unless you live there, and there is nothing wrong with that.

Keep away from a can that for the most part, has someone in it or near it, for instance sleeping next to it. This can has been claimed. This doesn’t apply to the communal dive. I have been in a few very large cans, like 40 yarders where some other guy comes along. Its actually a pleasant experience, but you have to gauge the situation. And then of course there is diving for food, yes food, almost guaranteed to be someone else there, or on their way. And according to the freegans, it can be quite a party. Everyone either sticks to themselves, or are very friendly, even going to the extent of offering you what they have found and tipping you off on other locations. Who knew that dumpster diving for food is a very happy occasion.

Speaking of claimed bins. Some people use dumpsters as drop sites for illegal activities. I am mainly speaking of drug drops. Some of these dumpers are dropping drug waste or evidence. There may be chemicals or broken glass. I would stay away. Others use dumpsters as transaction sites, they drop and someone picks up. This means that these cans may be being watched, by either the dumper or the pick-er-upper. Or, worse, the police.

I knew a guy, an excellent scrapper and may be the best scrapper I know, who taught me most of what I know. He had problems with both of the instances listed above. In both cases he found marijuana, and in both cases he took it. The first instance I remember him recalling was that he got shot at. The second time, he found 22 lbs of pot and figured he was set for life. He loaded it up in his shopping cart, and got about 50 ft away when the cops rolled up on him. The police eventually let him go, but not until he was seriously interrogated for 2 days straight – they thought he was in connection to the grower and was the main distributer and that they had cracked a major case. He was just a scrapper and after close to a month of holding him and multiple criminal trials they let him go with a mere possession charge. His defense was that he found the drugs and was on his way to the local police station to turn it in. Yeah right, he thought he was set for life. Pot stinks, its skunky and almost pine tree smelling. The smell is very strong and the closer you are to it, the stronger. You will know when you have found it, and it is everywhere. My advice, its more trouble than its worth, can get you in a lot of trouble, either from the law, or the opposite, and the consequences can be great. Move to another bin, or move out the area you are in all together.

Stay away from Medical Waste. I was once rummaging about, and here is a story about knowing what locale you are behind. I had a cat who had lost its collar and needed a new tag, and here I am reaching in to this skip and I find what I think is a strange small collar with some weird name on it. I could do something with that. Within the hour I was told I was behind a mortuary and suddenly I realized that my cat was sporting a new/used toe tag. Oh the thoughts that went through my head, and the time I spent gingerly altering this toe tag for my cat. Poor kitty, he would have to go another while without a tag.

Stay away from food trash, many times it is in light blue opalescent bags tightly sealed. I don’t know why blue, but blue. The bags have a special coolness to them. If it’s a can behind a fast food place, ew gross, don’t even think about it, but sometimes cans are shared in places like strip malls and strip malls are famous for people to do their illegal dumping. It doesn’t hurt to look to see whats on top, but you may not want to jump in. I have jumped in. I found a big load of stuff behind a Chinese restaurant located in a strip mall, among many things there was a wireless keyboard, some really nice mens diamond earrings, a slew of mens footwear and bizarre gag gifts that given half a chance would fly, my guess was a gay breakup, but anyways I wanted to know what else was there. Once I was in, and after I had moved a few bags aside, I was ankle deep in rice. Moving rice, ylech. So if you must, see whats on top and then move along.

And then there is that special bin, I hope you never find it. But if it has a strong odor of urine or feces, back away slowly. Okay not slowly, but just don’t go there. Certain cans are designated homeless bathrooms, keep them that way or use them as intended. Stay away from doubled and tripled bagged things, the chances are its not treasure. Enough said?

In my next post I will discuss how to rock your dumpster diving style, in other words some clothing options and supply ideas.

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


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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Because the recent economic meltdown, people are going out in droves and dumpster diving for scrap metals in order to cash in on the value at recyclers - but beware, because in many states dumpster diving is ILLEGAL. Why? Because it's defined in the law of many states as trespassing - since the dumpster is on someone or some company's property and the bin itself belongs to someone other than YOU. The old saying that "garbage is public domain" is actually untrue in many places.

      Just a friendly FYI.

    • peggypat profile image

      Peggy Patrick Medberry 

      8 years ago from Los Angeles

      I don't know.. ewww. I mean moving rice.. yuk. But a toe tag for a cat collar... seriously funny!!! I am really enjoying this series of hubs!


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