Dumpster Diving

For the few out there who might be unfamiliar with the term, dumpster diving refers to the act of going through trash to find treasure, in a matter of speaking. There are basically two types of dumpster diving, residential and commercial.

The night before garbage day, take a walk around your neighborhood. Odds are you’ll see all sorts of stuff put out with the trash, from scrap lumber to old electronics. In most areas, it is not considered stealing if you are taking items placed out for trash collection. I’d avoid the recyclables though as some communities are touchy about that. As always though, be sure to check your local ordinances to be sure you aren’t breaking any laws when trash picking. I’ve known folks who have found TVs, VCRs, DVD players, stereos, and other goodies that work perfectly fine or only needed minor repairs. They either kept the items for their own use or sold them for a few bucks. Lumber can always be used for firewood if nothing else.

Always be absolutely certain the items you want to take are indeed being placed out for garbage pick up. I know my own kids have a habit of leaving their bikes and skateboards at the end of the driveway where someone might think we’re just tossing them out.

When it comes to commercial dumpsters, that’s where things can get tricky. It is absolutely crucial you get permission from the business before even approaching the dumpsters. Be sure you are speaking with a manager or owner and politely inquire about the pallets, milk crates, or whatever. If they say no, move on. Quite often, businesses use the dumpster area not just for trash but for outside storage.

No matter where you go dumpster diving, here are some tips:

–Always leave the area looking better than it did when you arrived. Strewing trash all about not only guarantees you won’t be allowed back but you’ve also ruined it for the next person.

–Wear protective gear. Leather gloves, thick soled boots, goggles are all necessary. Saving money by scavenging old pallets does you no good if you have to turn around and pay for a tetanus shot.

–Unless you have a very good reason otherwise, avoid taking any food items. Sure, grocery stores and such will occasionally throw out perfectly good canned food but often there’s a reason why it is being tossed.

–Watch out for rats and other vermin. This is particularly true in urban environments but you’ll find them pretty much anywhere.

Any of my readers here have any stories of great stuff they’ve found in the past?

Published by

Jim Cobb

Jim Cobb has been a student of survivalism and emergency preparedness for almost thirty years. As a young child, he drove his parents nuts with stockpiling supplies in the basement every time he heard there was a tornado watch in his area. Of course, being a child, those supplies consisted of his teddy bear, a few blankets and pillows, and random canned goods he grabbed from the kitchen cabinets. Later, he was the first (and likely only) child in his fifth grade class to have bought his very own copy of Life After Doomsday by Bruce Clayton. Today, he is a freelance writer whose work has been published in national magazines such as Boy’s Life and Complete Survivalist Magazine. He is a voracious reader with a keen interest in all stories with post-apocalyptic settings. He maintains the Library at the End of the World blog and is also the Content Director for SurvivalWeekly.com. He currently resides in a fortified bunker in the upper Midwest, accompanied by his lovely wife and their three adolescent Weapons of Mass Destruction. Jim's first book, Prepper's Home Defense, was published late 2012 and his second book, tentatively titled The Prepper's Complete Guide to Disaster Readiness, will be out in mid-2013, both coming from Ulysses Press.

2 thoughts on “Dumpster Diving”

  1. When I was ten living in Panama I saw kids my age going through garbage cans for food. They were attacking discarded chicken bones like starving rats. Few Americans realize how truly blessed we are to live in America.
    Not only can one persons trash be anthers treasure; one persons trash can keep starvation at bay for another. Sad but true…

  2. I simply can’t pass up a dumpster or a trashcan I know that someday I might find a dead body or a baby or something else horrible. But I have to know what people have thrown away. At campgrounds, I have found crockpots, coffee pots, all kinds of cooking gear from barbecues just thrown away. Most of it new. I have found complete Christmas trees, lights, decorations and stands thrown away.
    I’ve had the fun of discovery from it over the years. Try it, you might like it.

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