- Personal Finance
The joys of dumpster diving
Full length mirror: $20
Combo DVD/VCR player: $80
Desk hutch with cabinets: $120
Finding this stuff for free: Priceless
“Waste not, want not.” For those who dumpster dive (or for the elite who go urban foraging), this is an absolute truth.
Defined by Wikipedia as the act of “sifting through commercial or residential trash to find useful items,” dumpster diving is an economically-sound practice. Especially, supporters argue, in this age of material surfeit.
“We live in a time of excess and waste, and I don't think we should look down on those who find a way to use that ‘waste,’” Nikki Willhite writes on allthingsfrugal.com.
A Google search for “dumpster diving” yields 616,000 results, including forums where users discuss their “treasures” and sites that list prime diving locations and tips.
“I needed a new printer cable for a new computer,” one diver, nicknamed “Doc Dumpster,” begins. “They don't include all the cables, so they can charge you $39.95... after checking about 10 places, I found the printer cable, and other merchandise I sell on eBay.”
How much has the good doctor netted? “To date,” he says, “$9063.00.”
So, why dive? Some enjoy the “thrill of the hunt,” while others, like Vincent Jones, create art from discarded computer circuit boards and other refuse. Many claim reusing discarded materials makes DD eco-friendly. “Changing Rooms,” a home-renovation program that features salvaged materials in every episode, is a BBC favorite. Finally, a large percentage of divers cannot afford the latest and greatest for their humble abodes (yours truly, a college student, included).
Oh, and it’s legal… at least in California.
In California v. Greenwood, the Supreme Court ruled there is no common law expectation of privacy for discarded materials. In other words, dive all you want.
Etiquette & Rules
* Don't scramble over a fence, or ignore that “NO TRESSPASSING” sign to reach a dumpster.
* Don't leave a mess, i.e. put what you don’t want back in the dumpster.
* If someone asks you to leave, politely explain what you’re doing. If they still insist you vacate the premises, do so.
* Please, don't take home people’s confidential records if they forgot to shred them.
* Do NOT enter a dumpster when garbage trucks are in the area; if a truck approaches, get out of the dumpster immediately… no one is that good at holding their breath.
Things You'll Want to Bring
* Comfortable clothes you don't mind getting dirty (no jewelry or little things that can fall out of pockets)
* Closed-toe shoes (I recommend a pair of old sneakers with good traction)
* Plastic bags
* Flashlight (the inside of a dumpster is dark, even during the daytime)
* First aid kit (remember, this is trash you’re digging through)
To conclude, the blatant (and perhaps cliché) MasterCard rip-off that began this article describes things I found behind the dorms after my classmates escaped for the summer. To come full circle:
Having extra cash after paying for textbooks? Unbelievable.