View Full Version : Dumpster Diving?

10-27-11, 7:04pm
Packratona, when mentioning options in her $1/lb list, listed dumpter diving as a means of obtaining food. Have any of you ever done this? I have to admit, the thought scares me a little ( I don't want to get arrested:0!). But doing it once is on my bucket list.

10-27-11, 8:45pm
Nope! But the Sierra Club had an article (http://www.sierraclub.org/sierra/201109/dumpster-diving.aspx) from someone who does. Quite interesting! And it is grotesque how much food gets wasted.

iris lily
10-27-11, 11:29pm
I've dived for decades, but not for food. That DOES seem like the final diving frontier!

Well, wait--I have dived for canned food, got scads of it 2X in the same year.

I don't really know where to go for fresh food, though.

10-28-11, 12:22am
Yes and eaten dumpster food and enjoyed it with others and it was good times. The fear of getting arrested seems way out of proportion. Yes it's usually done at night with some sneaking around. But for the most part cops have better things to do than bother with dumpster divers. However some stores do lock their bins. The part I never entirely overcame was psychological conditioning as it were. The conditioning most of us have to think of dumpster food as "dirty" (despite the fact it is mostly in fairly pristine condition, basically perfectly good food they are throwing away, in other words not at all what is in your kitchen trash can). Probably best extinguished by enough exposure plus thought modification I guess (yea I really think of it in terms of behaviorist models and conditioning). But a little tricky. Something I have done regularly since - hoisted myself up into the dumpster in my building to rescue electronic waste, recyclables, etc, to dispose of them properly. I don't go digging through the trash for them, but if they are just lying there while I'm putting out my trash .... I'm tempted to do the right thing, you know? :)

10-28-11, 1:28am
Yes! I have done this several times. But I get to the food before it gets to the dumpster!

For example, when the produce is being taken OFF the shelves (usually fruits and veggies), i simply ask the manager if we can go through it and have some before they toss it into the dumpster. The only thing I don't do this is with meat, dairy, etc. But fruit and veg are no problem, and same with most canned and jarred goods. There's one store here that puts everything on tables "out in the back" and then at the end of the day, clears the tables into the dumpsters, and puts the tables back into the store. So, it makes diving pretty easy.

We also get a lot of stuff out of the dumpster in general. I got a whole lot of pots for plants out of the dumpster, a couple of chairs, and an old little racing motorcycle that i gave to a friend of mine and he's fixing it up (for fun). he's 17, and is learning to tinker with machinery. this was a low cost bike for him to get to toy with!

one friend of mine is a master diver, as she managed to get a lap top, printer, cell phone, television, blue ray/dvd player, stereo (in fact, several stereos), and vacuum cleaners out of dumpsters. Usually, they just require a small fix, and she usually gives them to people to fix and says "sell them, and just give me a portion." So, she makes money for nothing (and her chicks for free, i guess!). It's like one of her jobs.

10-28-11, 6:03am
I've rescued many terrific items from dumpsters, but never food. If I came across edible food I would have no problem taking it home though.

10-28-11, 6:36am
Never done it but am not against it. I do fear getting in the dumpster and not being able to get out (I've seen it happen) . I don't see why it would be illegal (police references) because once in the dumpster it is no longer wanted and on the way to a landfill somewhere. We see people make regular rounds on trash day, checking out and retrieving items from people's trash so I see no difference be it a dumpster.

Regarding food specifically, I'd have no problem retrieving canned goods but critters can get into fresh and boxed/packaged foods so I would avoid those. When I was in college, the local fast food restaurants would throw their leftover prepared foods away at closing time and that didn't last long in the dumpster. Now that fast food restaurants prepare as ordered there is not the fast food trash as there once was.

10-28-11, 7:43am
I've never done it for food, but did a fair amount of "alley scrounging" for furniture, etc. while in grad school and even after we got decent jobs in NYC.

I had a funny scrounging story happen here in China, too -- on the way to the office one morning I pased a couple of bookcases. One was smaller and easier to manage, so I grabbed that and carried it into my office on my way in. As I was coming out to get the second, slightly larger one, I ran into my Tibetan colleague -- who was carrying the bigger bookcase! He looked a little embarassed until I said "hey, where are you going with my bookcase!" He thought it was tremendously funny that his expat manager was so cheap/frugal. Of course, we had actually furnished much of the office with second-hand furniture when we first moved in, but he wasn't working with us then.

It is actually kind of hard to find good scroungable stuff in China because it disappears so fast. There are people who come to our building every day to check for things that people have left by the bins. We have snagged a few things we saw quickly -- four legs for an Ikea table (these will be used to make a desk for our daughter), some plants and planters. but most stuff gets carried off before we see it.

One of my favorite dumpster diving sagas is in the book Farm City. Novella Carpenter is desperate to find food for her growing pigs, and dumpster diving in Chinatown and behind a fancy french restaurant saves the day. Really fun, funny story -- recommended for the inner dumpster diver in all of us.


10-28-11, 10:04am
A few years back when dh was calling on Whole Foods as a sales rep, he would come home with pies and cakes that were bound for the dumpster. I think now they may go to the food banks. Seeing the backs of stores as he did though, he would lament the huge amount of food that went into the trash daily everywhere - perfectly good food.

10-28-11, 10:54am
I've never dumpster (anything), but when I see the wastefulness of our society today and what everyday common people throw out, I think dumpsters are an excellent source for those rare finds.

Re: food and dumpsters, I remember ordering from a chicken place one late evening (a few years back) and the lady behind the counter said to me, "sorry about the wait miss, but we've been keeping a closer eye on what we throw out lately, so orders are now being prepared fresh". I didn't think much of it and responded with, "oh, must be word from the top"? "Yes and no" she replied, adding, "more so that we don't want to see anyone get sick". I was taken aback by her remark so I questioned her about the sick thing, and she said, "yeah, we usually pour bleach over all leftover chicken before tossing it into the dumpster". I was livid!!!

Perfectly edible food (poisoned) so the less fortunate can't eat it? I gather donating it to the food bank wasn't an option, or maybe no one thought of that... Or, not contaminating it with bleach in the first place before tossing, but saying you did!

10-28-11, 12:23pm
Almost a dumpster story. I was in line at McDonalds for an Egg McMuffin when fast food restaurants pre-made their sandwiches. I got in line at 10:20AM and they quit serving breakfast at 10:30AM. I was still in line at 10:30 when I observed a worker take all of the breakfast items and dump them in the trash. When I got to order at 10:31 I asked for an Egg McMuffin, the reply was 'we quit serving breakfast at 10:30'. I said I was in line at 10:20 and just saw them dump a load of Egg McMuffins in the trash. Reply, 'we quit serving breakfast at 10:30'. So irritating and so wasteful.

10-28-11, 12:43pm
All the waste makes me sad too. And there's so many people in this world who would be so grateful for the things our society throws away every day.

I've only dumpster-dived once, for a couple of old 386 computers that I knew were being thrown out. I'd love to go diving again, but don't want to go by myself due to safety concerns, and I don't have any friends who are interested in going.

10-28-11, 3:33pm
Ah, dumpster diving.......it used to be a favorite LooseChickens sport, back in the old days, and still is, on occasion......

I still remember fondly an elderly lady we knew in a National Forest in Colorado "Dumpster Diver Charlotte", who was the camp host in a campground where well to do folks would fly in to CO from places like NYC and rent a car, buy camping gear, then take off for a "wilderness experience", and would then DUMP all that stuff in the dumpsters when time to fly back to the cities.

Charlotte spent the summer patrolling her dumpsters, and by fall had crammed her little travel trailer to the rafters with stuff, tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, all sorts of stuff, and then in the winters she would supplement her Social Security checks back in Texas by taking the stuff to flea markets and selling it. Today, I guess, she'd sell it on eBay. So for the cost of one round-trip from TX to CO, she had a free place to stay all summer in the beautiful mountains, and then in the winter, she had her flea market life in TX, all on an extremely small amount of money.

She invited us to dinner once, and we feasted on Omaha steaks that someone had brought to the campground, frozen, didn't use and dumped in the dumpster when they left, still half frozen. Boy, those were good steaks.

She made us a "professional" dumpster diving tool out of a piece of very heavy gauge wire that she bent a hook into the end, and we use it to this day to dig around in a dumpster for what goodies might be there, and can be pulled out without having to crawl into the dumpster to get it.

those who are interested might enjoy this site: http://www.dumpsterworld.org/index.php

One good thing about hugely wasteful societies is that there is so much good stuff for those of us who get a kick out of getting "something for nothing", and helping to reduce stuff in landfills by doing it. Kind of a win/win, don't ya think?

10-28-11, 4:52pm

NZ has "Trash Palace" as well -- which is a place that pulls stuff out of the trash before it goes to landfill (it's right next to the land fill). There is *awesome* stuff at Trash Palace. Seriously. :) When we get our car, we're gathering up some friends (to split gas prices), and going to trash palace to fill in some gaps (kitchen stuff -- two of our plates broke).

10-28-11, 5:41pm
My daughter did it all the time when she went to school in DC. One time I went to visit and her fridge was filled with those expensive nutrient drinks (can't remember the name) and when I asked her about them, she said she and her roommates had gotten them free out of the Trader Joe's dumpster.

But, they took it one step further. They would dumpster dive at stores where the food was still packaged and intact and just expired or recently expired and then they would make meals for the homeless and serve it up every Sunday at DuPont Circle.

I thought that those kids (including DD) were awesome for doing that. And, even as a mother, after she explained that the food was not open, or rancid, I thought she was awesome for doing that.

10-28-11, 6:17pm
here, grocery stores give most of the packaged stuff to food banks and/or run their own food banks, so it's only the fresh (and unpackaged) stuff that comes through.

10-28-11, 6:38pm
I have a friend who is quite ambitious about diving. He has never been arrested, but has been harassed/questioned by police several times. The laws seem to vary by community. His favorite time is Sunday morning when folks tend to be sleeping in and not much traffice. He carries gloves to avoid cuts and limit exposure and a long poker to root throught stuff, but I'm sure there are health and safety issues. I've gone along with him a few times but have never been too comfortable with it.

10-29-11, 3:47pm
I only have dumpster dived once for food. Well sort-of. We were in Australia and drove out with some friends to the dump.

It appeared that there were some freshly dumped baked potatoes. I can't remember if they were wrapped in foil or not. He started grabbing them up like they were gold. Okay, I was abit creeped out about it - after all they were in the garbage! But later that night I did eat one and didn't get sick!

I do scavenge for redeemable soda bottles at work when I take out the garbage, also when I am running and see one along the road, etc. I have a soda bottle cash stash -- $ 170+ from cans & bottles redeemed. That is a lot of cans at .05 cents each, actually 3400 cans to be exact!

Our local food bank too is very good about rescuing food. They have trucks that pick up food from restaurants, conventions, grocery stores etc. I have volunteered there and they are very organized and know how to handle the food to keep it safe.

10-29-11, 3:50pm
I can't help but think of the Seinfeld episode when George rescued the Maple Bar out of the kitchen trash -- of course only to be caught by his girlfriend...Very Funny. :laff:

10-29-11, 4:23pm
i think of that one too! lol poor george!

10-29-11, 6:15pm
I've never done it. We call them skips over this side of the pond.
Mind you, I've filled plenty of skips!

11-4-11, 11:30am
I've never dumpster dove for food, but I have gone into the food dumpsters. A few years ago Wendys was doing a promo where if you collected a certain amount of cups then you got a free airline ticket. The whole family got airline tickets for Christmas that year :) I couldn't even look at a Wendys without feeling a little nauseous for a while.

I love the whole idea of getting something for free and making use out of things that would otherwise be discarded, so I love dumpster diving!

11-5-11, 11:22pm
My uncle would go through the trash to pick up furniture. There was a certain day of the week in our town, which was meant for larger items. You would not put your pieces in the garbage cans, but on the side. Then he, plus lots of other people, would go scrounging around town before the garbage trucks would go through. Everybody would get something, and those that started early would get station wagons full of stuff. Then everybody would tinker with whatever it was that they had found. Sometimes, it would go back in the trash again, for someone else to pick up. Sometimes it was sold (after being spiffed up) at a garage sale or shop.

What was great was that the larger items did not go to the landfill, it was like a game, and people enjoyed doing it. I don't know if the town still does it or not, but he has lots of furniture he is working on. Years and years worth, I do not think he needs to go diving anytime soon!

11-6-11, 2:02am
We had a friend years ago who would search those curbside pickups for old furniture made from solid hardwoods, then he would dismantle the furniture, plane the boards, and create other objects from the old wood. He made some of the most beautiful, small items of furniture, stools, end tables, bookshelves, etc. from that free wood. And sometimes he would find old pieces that once they were freed of the layers of paint, etc., were made from woods of a quality seldom seen today. It was unbelievable the beauty he created from stuff he picked up off the street for free. He said that the old wood was just so much better quality than the wood being harvested today that it was worth the effort to recycle it.

11-6-11, 2:45am
Yea whenever I see wood being thrown away that's what I think of. Then again I'd have to learn carpentry and have access to tools because I don't really know how to do anything with wood now.

We don't really have wood these days in the new stuff. Oh sure we might have some new furniture made from wood (probably harvested from a virgin forest somewhere half a world away - not kidding :( - I learned of that and got my wooden furniture from then on from the thrift shop!). But in another sense PEAK WOOD has long since been reached. Things like buildings these days are NOT usually constructed of wood, I've observed apartments and so on going up (and you can bet most new houses are the same), it's all plywood! A bit shocking when I first saw it, just trespassing over a construction site just to observe. But yea wood though technically renewable of course, is in reality precious, not something to throw away really. So every time I see it I wish I could rescue it, but becoming a carpenter in my off hours, I don't know, you know ... would be a commitment.

11-6-11, 5:46am
I used to work in a supermarket and in a deli. The amount of wastage (perfectly good food!) from both places was staggering. Although we weren't meant to, I would often 'intercept' food waste before it made it to the bin and take it home. I got so many delicious free things out of that! I have never rifled through garbage from a store though because I am scared of getting caught.