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I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Do you have the balls to dumpster dive?

Dive on in!With finances being tight these days, more and more people are cutting back on their spending. Many people are even doing something they probably weren't comfortable doing before: shopping at thrift stores. I know that, since I'll be out of work for six months writing my book and not working, I'll be frequenting the thrift stores if I need any clothes.

With the focus not only on saving money, but also on being environmentally friendly, it's become a little more socially acceptable to admit to getting that nice "new" sweater second-hand. In fact, there's even a sense of pride in finding a good deal.

More anonymous buying and selling of used goods through websites like Craigslist or eBay doesn't exactly have the same sort of stigma as neighborhood garage sales and have been accepted by many trying to make money selling their goods or getting a deal. So, how does this trend portend to the acceptance of dumpster diving?

If it were legal and socially acceptable, I think more people would be willing to give it a try. I know some people who (out of economic necessity) have a history of dumpster diving, but I imagine that many do it these days for environmental reasons either for food or goods. There are so many useful items and still edible foods that are thrown out each day, it seems a shame that these can't be rescued from the waste stream by interested people.

Not yet having the cojones to dumpster dive (although I feel a challenge coming on), I can't say much about it aside from being scared of trying it. That said, have you ever dumpster dived? Would you be willing to go dumpster diving?

If you are real interested, there's a movie, Dive! The Movie, that's available in fairly limited release that's a documentary about people going dumpster diving and why they do it.

44 comments:

Surviving and thriving on pennies said...

the closest ive come to dumpster diving is taking an end to a wooden box by a dumpster because I liked the picture. Its now hanging on my wall.
I have taken things off the side of the street before. I have a great art chest and quilt chest this way.

When I was little I grew up in SE Portland. During the summer my sister and I would sneak to our school and take out papers from the garbage bin. We would use those papers to play pretend school. Its was like Christmas for us. lol

So to answer your question do I have the balls to dumpster dive? Yes I have very hair large balls to do so.

Sonja said...

No...The closest I ever came to dumpster diving was raiding garbage bins outside of Dale Chihuly's workshop, back in 9th grade. We found cool bits of of funky glass but nothing really useful (or edible).

Judy Schwartz Haley | CoffeeJitters.Net said...

This is actually an issue in our home. My husband likes to bring home things he finds next to (not in) the dumpster - these are usually items left by people moving out of the apartment complex. Not really trash.

The issue is we live in a tiny place and he likes to complain that we have too much stuff - and then he brings home stuff we don't need but he's convinced he could fix up and sell or something like that.

I wouldn't mind if he would actually bring home something useful or actually fix up and sell one of the items he brought home.

no food though - mostly cast aside furniture.

Anne said...

Yes, I (and many people in my family) have "shopped" at the dump before. My dad would come home all the time when I was growing up and say "you won't believe they were throwing this away." He'd find parts for equipment, or household items or books. I regularly shopped at thrift stores growing up. I never paid more than $10 for a prom dress in high school. It helped that I could sew, but I knew there'd never be anyone there with the same dress. I still get my greatest shopping thrills at thrift stores. My kids have even caught the "pre-owned" bug. One day last year I saw them walking home from school struggling to carry a big plastic picnic table (they're 8 & 10). When I asked them why they had it, they said "MOM!!! It had a sign on it that said FREE!" It's still in use on top of our garage.

Natalie said...

Been there, done that.

DK said...

My family did this out of necessity when I was a kid. We'd get all kinds of produce from grocers' dumpster to feed to the chickens. I remember once we even got ~9 gallons of dishsoap because someone had accidentally sliced open the jugs when opening the case. We just washed out a bunch of old milk jugs and had dish soap for months and months.

Sonja said...

I pick up furniture or books from the side of the street, but the dumpsters of the supermarkets are behind gates and locked with, well, locks. I don't like that, but I'm not going to tresspass and risk the chance of getting caught.

deb said...

I had a housemate in college who did it and got one form or other of hepatitis. I can see doing salvage, but not food.

rbn said...

I've done it from the bread dumpster behind my local bakery. They leave the dumpsters unlocked, and there is generally a "we don't want to see it, but don't really mind" kind of attitude towards dumpster diving. The dumpsters are unlocked, unfenced, easy to reach, etc. If they didn't want people to do it, they could make it much harder (which I imagine would discourage a large percentage of their dumpster divers, myself included).

But I like going and picking up some tasty bread :) I'm preventing waste and saving some money - it seems like a double win to me (though I'm sure my mother would be absolutely appalled if she knew I did this).

The 4 Bushel Farmgal said...

The town dump where I grew up was a treasure trove of cast-offs. My hubby knew that when I took the garbage, I’d always bring something home ;) Maple beds, rocking chairs, etc. I also used to stop at any “free” pile, and had found many neat things over the years.

I also set things out by the sidewalk in free piles, and they always quickly disappeared!

But a dumpster...I haven't been tempted. It's illegal around here and I'm not in the economic situation where I'd have to consider it. (keeping my fingers crossed)

Jen. said...

My 19 yo son has done it while staying with some friends who have a regular practice. They got some kombucha & other good stuff, and some junk that they ate anyway, like Krispy Kreme donuts that had just expired. He was told that REI is a good place to check out, so we tried it last time we were near one. There were people out back putting a kayak on a car though, so we didn't follow through.

I used to get a lot of coupons out of recycling bins, but stopped that when we started eating less processed food.

The Tame One said...

I just don't know if I have it in my. I still struggle with the smell in Goodwill, although my husband loves to grab things out of dumpsters. (I'm having embarrassment and anxiety issues just typing it.) He found a bread rack that a grocery store that was "perfectly good". Its in our barn with the kids toys stacked on it. I suppose he was right.

Billie said...

I have dumpster dived for furniture. I haven't done anything recently in the last couple of years but I haven't seen anything I needed to be honest.

Anna in Atlanta said...

Yes, yes, and yes. Not for food (though I take found leftovers from school lunches home to the chickens) but for furniture and building supplies all the time. Embarrasses the children, but I'm always scoping out dumpsters on walks and while driving by. I've built 4 chicken coops from "trash." My most recent coup is 3 solid oak library chairs from the dumpster behind the local high school. They look great in the dining room painted a bright shiny blue.

Anonymous said...

I was once driving down an alley behind a grocery store when I saw an employee bringing out produce to put in the dumpster. The employee didn't have the key or something, so she put the tray of food down on top of the dumpster and went back inside. My mother-in-law and I took the entire tray of stuff home. It was about 9 slightly overripe eggplants, some bruised fruit, and other not-pretty-but-perfectly-edible produce. We had so much we ended up blanching and freezing some of it, and we made fruit salad out of the good parts of the bruised fruit. I wish dumpsters were more accessible! Most of them are locked up.

louisa @ The Really Good Life said...

We frequently skip dive (as it's called in the UK) - but as with a lot of the commenters, more for furniture/building materials rather than food. Unlike most dumpsters I've seen, skips tend to have open tops so you can easily see what's in there as you go by.

We mostly focus on wood & the like (for building or burning) - with wooden pallets our usual favourite find - but are currently on the look out for old bathroom sinks to use around the garden (to use as outdoor sinks, bird baths or growing containers).

My FIL is also a skip-diver and hauled eight huge sections of dry tree trunk out of a skip a few weeks ago -- they'll keep us and his family warm for a couple of weeks this winter.

Our biggest problem is seeing stuff while we're on the way to doing something else and/or without the car - by the time we go back for it, the skip is often gone or someone else got there before us - you very much have to snag it when you see it!

Luisa said...

I don't have the guts to dumpster dive. I'm more of a thrift store, yard sale and pick it up on the side of the road type of person. Actually I have picked shelves up next to the dumpster.

Wendy said...

When I was in college, I lived in married student housing, and at the end of the school year, one year, there was a lot of used furniture in still good condition sitting in the dumpster area - not actually *IN* the dumpster, but sitting in the bricked-in enclosure where the dumpster was. I took home a nice rocking chair and a very interesting carpet made from those tiny carpet samples all sewed together. I loved that rug.

I've never actually jumped into a dumpster, and I can't really see myself doing it, but if I saw something usable sitting next to a dumpster, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't pass it up.

That said, I live in the suburbs where we don't have dumpsters, and I'd really have to go out of my way to find one. The suburban equivalent to dumpsters is our roadside garbage pick-up, and no, I would not stop on the side of the road and pick through my neighbor's trash.

Anna said...

We have dumpster dived for furniture mostly, things that come from cleaning out old businesses or houses. It's just cool to see what people throw out. We got a huge table for the workshop once from an old printing place.

In college a friend was upset about how much waste came out of the bagel shop everyday. Then he found a lady with chickens.

Now that we have chickens, I don't have to go to a dumpster I just go to the co-op I volunteer at and take home all the buggy food for them. They love the extra protein! I wouldn't eat much out of the dumpster myself, but I do take home the expired stuff from the store that nobody buys.

Sara said...

I just moved across the country with my children, and we had nothing when we got here. Someone had thrown out a bunch of furniture in our massive dumpster. I took a wardrobe, tv, shelving, tables, flashlight, pens...random things. I washed them up, hammered a few nails into some loose pieces...almost good as new.

I felt a bit weird doing it, but now I think it's fun to tell my friends where we got our stuff.

Brad K. said...

Yep.

My local theatre gets their coconut oil in 50 pound cans - about the size and fixtures of a five gallon bucket. I have an assortment of buckets. Plus, there is usually an inch of oil in the bottom of the can. I poured that into containers, and it is really good shortening.

I do some day work for a neighbor. I scavenge a lot of what he discards. A local store through out a Keebler crackers display wire rack. Lined with a couple of beer flats (two inch high open top boxes that the beer sixpacks are gathered into, to facilitate moving from plant to truck, and truck to store), it makes a great tool shelf and holds a surprisingly heavy load.

I hit the flea market for extra tools to stick in the tractor where an extra wrench or three will be useful when the alternator belt gets loosened. I shop the pawn shop for barely-used abrasive blades for my angle grinder, for likely hammers (I have a wide range of weights and styles).

I have a stack of 2x4's and lighter wood I picked up somewhere. Right now it seems to be kitten habitat, but there will be a use, I know.

Liz said...

I've never done it, but in the UK if you find something you want in a skip, it's perfectly legal to knock on the door of the house tne skip is for and ask permission to take it.

We also had a TV programme a couple of weeks or so ago called 'The Great British Waste Menu' in which top chefs went and found food in waste bins by shops/markets, or that businesses were chucking out at the end of the day, and even in ordinary people's fridges that the people said they would throw out rather than eat, and then created a menu from it to feed a group of important people. I've not seen the whole programme yet, but the beginning bit where they're finding the food is fascinating.

Annette said...

I have not dived yet only 'cz when I stop by there does not appear to be anything interesting or necessary. When I do to the dumpster to drop off what cannot be recycled, if it can be reused/purposed (clothing, shoes) I'll leave it to the side.
My mate forces a purge every one in awhile. =) Goodwill is a good 40 minutes away so the dumpster gift is our county's 'Goodwill'.

nava said...

I used to dumpster dive when I was younger, living in Texas. We moved a lot, so it was a lot easier to get,and then leave behind without remorse, stuff that way. In college,in family student housing at least, all the laundry rooms had large green bins that we could toss stuff in we didn't want; they were emptied weekly and donated to charity, but I shopped in those often. Where we are currently living the businesses lock their dumpsters, which is extremely frustrating since I KNOW they are throwing away awesome stuff, but "it's to prevent employee theft". That logic to me is ridiculous;it would be so easy to just have managers sign off on anything going in to the dumpster, and then, with all the garbage scavengers we have around here, they would be sending a lot less to the dump.

panamamama said...

In our area we don't have to because everyone puts their "big garbage" out on Fridays. I've gotten many pieces of furniture this way and I tell ya I can get stuff hauled off quicker than the thrift shop can come (like 5 minutes.) Love it.

Annie said...

The only reason I haven't dumpster dived is that I can not deal with the smell of rot. It makes me vomit. Even household trash poses a problem. In our town there is a lot of bulk trash that gets piled up on the curb so we salvage piles and piles of wood from demolition projects. We've grabbed gates, fence, wheel barrows, furniture, leaves and grass for the garden, t-posts, wooden pallets, and buckets. It's awesome!

Strange to think that people attached a stigma to used clothing. When I was in high school, 10-15 years ago, it was super cool to find stuff at the thrift store. We went all the time. One day my grandmother admitted to me, on the condition that I tell no one, that she bought all my grandfather's pants at the thrift store :-)

Sandy said...

I'm an art teacher. Dumpster diving is my life.

Krista said...

I dive, even for food. I thought that dumpster diving in America was no illegal, due to the fact that how can you steal garbage.

I'm with a lot of others on here, I hate locks and trash compactors. I guess stores lock their dumpsters to keep other from tossing their "junk".

Robj98168 said...

You know funny you mentioned it- I saw a guy this morning go through the garbage can at Trader Joes and pick a few things out to eat... thought to myself "there's one Urban Forager who will survive when the shit hits the proverbial fan"
As someone who frequents dumpsters, I cannot condemn those who do, be it for food, or clothing or whatever, nor can I condemn the fools who throw things away for stupid reasons- without them there would be no dumpster divers

Presto said...

I've dumpster-dived for electronic stuff...Tv's stereos, computers and the like. Most of the electronic stuff that people throw away still works. I've obtained other stuff that way as well, but I have never dumpster-dived for food or clothes.

Rowan said...

It's funny to me that shopping at thrift stores used to be unusual like that. I'm sixteen, and I consider my family thoroughly middle class. We own several properties, etc, etc. But NEW new clothing has always seemed an enormous luxury to me. My mom considers beauty a waste of time and money, and clothes are just clothes. (So why does she get mad when I wear her shirts?) Therefore, I've been shopping at thrift stores my whole life. Getting NEW new clothes is a rare treat.
My dad, who doesn't live with us, is homeless, which isn't as bad as it sounds. He's lived in motels and his car as long as I can remember, and he taught me the value of skills like dumpster diving. He's a major health fanatic, and his favorite joke is about dumpster diving at the Health Food Co-op.

Rowan said...

And I don't know about other places, but it's definitely legal in Seattle and Bellingham, WA.

Rosa said...

I dumpster dive ALL THE TIME. I've lived mostly off dumpstered food at various times in my life. I took my mom to the dumpster behind the good bakery, before they started crushing all their old bread so people wouldn't dumpster it.

In my neighborhood, dumpster diving is pretty respectable. When people want to get rid of a large item, they put it out near but not in the trash, sometimes with a sign on it that says FREE. Someone almost always takes it. None of our thrift stores will take anything a baby has sat in, so I have gotten rid of carseats, strollers, and a baby swing that way.

I've noticed recently that the dumpster outside homes that are being renovated get stripped of bricks, 5 gallon buckets, and usable lengths of wood very quickly - sometimes, I'll be on my way to pick up my kid from school and think, hey, nice 2x4 chunks, we should see if those fit in the Burley...but then by the time I've picked him up and we're on the way home, they're gone.

Aydan said...

I've never dove (dived) into a dumpster, but I have taken a few things that were left as trash when people moved out of the dorms. There is a LOT left over. I think my uni gives a lot of it away.

Robbie said...

There was an article in our paper two weekends ago about a teacher who outfitted her classroom - and provided school supplies for each student - by dumpster diving at the suburban public school last May. Incredible!!!

Tigerlily said...

My summer job is at a dump. (I divert hazardous waste from landfill) And although scavenging is illegal I am amazed at what people will through out. Childrens bikes are one of the worst (technically they are in the scarp metal bin for recycling) but a lot of them look to be in a good condition and I KNOW there are parents who can ill afford new bikes for their growing kids. Why don't these people take the bike some other place? I think we really need to reform the way we think about what actually is garbage!

Amy Manning said...

I'm squeemish about it. But my husband grabs old bread out of bakery dumpsters for the chickens.

Anonymous said...

I have never actually climbed INTO a dumpster, but have taken newspapers out of the top of a recycling bin of mixed paper and plastic items in order to get free coupons before. I would do this more, but I feel very self-conscientious about it. If anyone is around to see (and usually there are people around!), I really do worry about what they must thinking.

Jill J.

emmer said...

when i had hens, i snagged food for them from the dumpster behind the local market. when they got to know me, they actually held produce and sometimes bread for me twice a week. often those greens and fruits were plenty good as people food.
when i had wood heat, i collected kindling at construction sites and broken pallets behind stores. sometimes we found burnables in dumpsters. sometimes city or utility company tree pruning crews gave us tree limbs.
second hand shopping is our "check first" position. it is hard to remember a time when i haven't shopped at thrifts, second-hands, and rummage/garage sales for clothing, household goods fabric and craft articles. with 2 friends, i run a little sewing business, doing alterations, of course, but primarily making useful, attractive goods from repurposed fabrics. this week, at a church rummage sale, we got 3 sewing/pattern books, 4 yards of fancy grosgrain ribbon, 2 ceramic mugs, 3 1/2 yards of crushed velvet, 2 3/4 yards panne velvet, 1 2/3 yard of really nice fake fur, and an egg slicer all for $4.10. all but the eggslicer will be converted to goods for sale.

Mud Mama said...

We dumpster dive *all the time*! Being good polite Canadians we get permission to, but yeah we do it. Contractors that know we are looking for free salvage will even set stuff aside for us (we're renovating/restoring a hundred year old farmhouse) We get all sorts of construction materials this way. Our teens are planning on building a tiny house as a project and the only thing they've budgetted for is screws and nails and a solar collector. Everything else is coming via dumpster diving and the big autumn clean up when we can put large stuff out for collection. Thier dream find would be an arched window or door :-)

At grocery stores we contact the produce manager about getting the fruit they'll be throwing out before it hits the dumpster - we've put up hundreds of pounds of peaches this way.

In our experience wealthy neighbourhoods are a better place to make these deals. I think they're mildly shocked by the request and can't see a reason not to say yes.aking these deal

wonkydonkey said...

I haven't thought much about dumpster diving. In the downtown area where I work, most of them are locked. In the 'burbs where I live, there aren't very many - and the ones we do have are also secured or behind fences (restaurants, schools, etc.).

I do, however, love second-hand stores. I have instilled a thrifty nature into my three teenagers, and we all have pre-worn clothing, shoes, bags, etc. As my oldest prepares to leave the nest, we are gathering used household items for him to take and will fill in any gaps from the local thrift stores. I'm on the hunt for a good, solid dresser this month.

Lisa Sharp said...

I dunno. I know I wouldn't for food, I have food allergies so it wouldn't be safe.

TracyKM said...

I've never truely dumpster dived, but we 'garbage pick' all the time. People here (everywhere?) put items they don't want at the curb. Just got a great wicker rocking chair.
Back when I was a kid, you could actually go into the local dump and garbage pick, but it's not allowed anymore for safety...even if someone dumps a perfect bike, once it's out of their vehicle, you can't touch it :(
Oprah did a great show about this last spring (or the spring before?).

bil2054 said...

I have lived on the streets and survived by dumpster diving. A donut shop in Tuscon used to put the expired pastries in a clean trash bag on top of their dumpster; cool folks.
In later years I had permission to "harvest" the produce dumpsters for animal food, and the bakery departments kept the surplus aside for us. Not all of it went to the animals.

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