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Dumpster divers?

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
Anyone shop at D-Mart?

My dh and I have been practicing "aggressive recycling" for almost a year now, and we find incredible things on a regular basis.

There are certain things I never buy anymore: pet food, cat litter, all sorts of pet tanks and cages, soap, toothpaste, many craft supplies like paint and glue and beads, yarn, oranges, onions, apples, candy, expensive gourmet non perishable foods like nut mixes, cookie mixes, juices and sodas, flower bouquets and potted plants, snack foods, pet toys, clothes hangers, bags of flour, almost every big "as seen on TV" buying craze, seasonal decorations and tchotckes from places like Michael's and Hobby Lobby and Pier One, Xmas lights and ornaments, Halloween costumes, picture frames, magazines, cards, candles...

Well, truth be told I hardly buy anything anymore (lol) but these are things I can count on finding with such regularity I have a lot already and I've already passed them out in abundance to everyone I know. Some nights we go dumpstering and straight to the donation box before we even come home.

But, if I am running low on, say, pet food, I know I can just make a quick trip out behind the pet store and choose from several bags with small tears in them.

It's a very rewarding and fun hobby. We never started it with the intent to save money, we started to "rescue" perfectly usable items from going to the landfill. Many of the things we find we share with friends or donate to goodwill. However, the biggest shock to me is how much $ we have saved and how almost anything you could need is out there in a dumpster and in perfectly good condition RIGHT NOW, just waiting for you.
post #2 of 31
My mom and I were all ready to start the adventure of dumpster diving on our weekly get together time, but sadly, every time we went to look in a dumpster, we found that all the stores had big trash compactors instead of dumpsters. It's weird. Maybe it's just the stores in this area. I would love to find some good free stuff. I wish I had dumpsters like yours.
post #3 of 31
I don't see dumpsters around here either, but we used to be able to find some nice things around our apartment dumpsters in the last place we lived.
post #4 of 31
Do you live in an urban area? Do you go under cover of night? Do you actually get into the dumpster? Has anyone ever stopped you?

I used to do "curbside shopping" all the time when I lived closer to a major university. It was shocking what kids would throw out when they moved -- perfectly good kitchen supplies (bowls, utensils, etc.) and brand-name clothing (Gap, Abercrombie, etc.). I even found a jar of change once!

But now we're in a ritzier part of town and I haven't had much luck trash-picking (though I did get our dining room light fixture that way).
post #5 of 31
Thread Starter 
Big huge stores have compactors, yes. Don't bother with K Mart, Target, Wal Mart, Toys R Us, and big grocery stores.

The stores that don't have compactors are medium-sized ones like Borders, Barnes and Noble, Dollar Tree, Aldi's, PetCo, Pier One, Michael's, AC Moore, PetSmart, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Ollies, Big Lots... the stores you tend to find in strip malls.

Smaller, locally owned stores tend to not have dumpsters at all. so, you definitely want to check out the medium sized stores. Some do, however - I love dumpstering at our locally owned homeschooling store. I homeschool my dd, and we get some cool stuff from there.

I do live in a small city with a large suburban area surrounding it. But, I've dumpstered in every city I've visited in the last year from big huge cities to tiny one horse towns. In general, I think suburban strip malls seem to be the most rewarding.

We used to exclusively go at night, now we like to go either at night or early Sunday morning before the stores open. However, if life takes me to an area where there is a strip mall during the day, I look and get what I can. Night time isn't really only because we are trying to stay hidden, but for the practical fact that most businesses toss out their trash at the end of the work day.

I read somewhere that "dumpster diving" is an inaccurate term because it makes it sound too physical and "dumpster fishing" is a better term for it. Sometimes, if a dumpster is really full of great stuff or something really great is at the bottom I will jump in. Most of the time I just lean in and use my hands and a "grabber".

We've been "caught" a few times but never told to leave. I expect it will happen, and then we will just leave. Anytime we've been caught it's been fine, people have asked what we were doing and we've shown them what we've found and the reaction is usually, "COOL!".

If you leave the area cleaner than you found it, I don't think most businesses care too much. We clean up around the dumpster, throw cardboard from the trash dumpster into the recycling one, and try not to be a nuisance.

Once some teenagers saw us and harrassed us from far away, yelling rude things, but that was the only experience of that type.

Once we got pulled over by the police with a car full of dumpstered stuff (this was a night I went with a group of friends, it was 2am and her headlight was out). The officer shined his light in her SUV full of assorted stuff and asked what it was. She told him we were dumpster diving and he took a second look and said, "really? cool!". (He didn't even give her a ticket for the light, just a warning! )
post #6 of 31
We DD on some regualrity, although we haven't done our "commercail" route in over a year, we do still hit residential dumpsters weekly.

We use to do stores, still have lots of useful items we are using today that we pulled from store dumpster.
post #7 of 31
I used to look down on that but then I got over it when I saw what cool things others can find. But hubby would never appreciate it because that's what his ex does and we won't go into what he thinks of her. My stepkids will sometimes show us the neat things she finds for them. Heaven help me if I ever tried it and my daughter found out. She bought a new and expensive crib for her second baby but the little darling is putting teeth marks on the railing since she's been able to pull herself up. My dd was wondering what to put on the railing to prevent that and I suggested tying towels or something around it. She laughed and told me that was ghetto. She had in mind some nice store bought or made cover up that would be pretty and match the crib sheets. Nothing wrong with that but I don't think there was anything wrong with my suggestion either. Either way its only temporary and would do the job especially because dd doesn't have alot of extra money lying around.
post #8 of 31
I was doing it a lot this past summer, but haven't been in quite a while. I do need to go DD some kitty food soon though. I absolutely could not believe what I was finding out there for pet food. That was the most unbelievable finds for me.
post #9 of 31
Thought I would chime back in, as I just finished packaging up some books I sold on Half.com this weekend..... $84 for 2 books, that were brand new college books found in a nice reuseable bag (new grocery store bag for me) in a residential dumpster a few blocks away.
Person who thru them away, was a teacher and books were provided at some summer conference they went too according to the additional literature in the bag..

Brand new, now my bank account is $84 richer for maybe 5 minutes of work in listing and packaging these books.

** I just finished listing another 35+ books on Half tonight as well, they too were all pulled from neighborhood residential dumpster a few hours ago.
We found maybe 125 books in total, most were not selling over $1, so those go directly to goodwill tomorrow morning and kept maybe 10 ourselves.
post #10 of 31
Yup, everytime I go to the landfill I'm pulling things out of the dumpsters. It bugs me to no end the things that some people throw out. Even if I can't use it I take it and sell it or give it away on freecycle or craigslist. I want to go around to the strip malls but I can't get anyone to go with me. My husband will pull things out at the landfill with me (and for me, when he's alone) but he's afraid we'll get in trouble at the strip malls. I think I'll bring it up again (it's been awhile) and see what he says.
post #11 of 31
Thread Starter 
The main thing we are finding a lot of this time of year are christmas lights. Perfectly working christmas lights because the stores are switching to led for their window displays. I want to scream at them - "it's not green if you throw away something that already works perfectly well!".

The saddest find lately - you know how certain craft stores collect knitted squares to assemble into blankets for the needy? We found the box of knitted squares in their dumpster.
post #12 of 31
Originally Posted by Attila the Honey View Post
The saddest find lately - you know how certain craft stores collect knitted squares to assemble into blankets for the needy? We found the box of knitted squares in their dumpster.
Ugh! That disgusts me.
I think I would have to call them out on that one.
post #13 of 31
I'm fascinated. Is there a "how to" on dumpster diving?
post #14 of 31
does anyone know the legalities of doing this in california? i have never done it for fear of being "busted" but know there are some great finds out there.

i go out about once a month "alley skimming" where i drive up and down all the alleys to see what i can find, but i'm too chicken to try the dumpsters
post #15 of 31
Originally Posted by Jackies Ladybug View Post
does anyone know the legalities of doing this in california? i have never done it for fear of being "busted" but know there are some great finds out there.
It's most likely a local ordinance sort of thing. You could always anonymously call your police department's general (non-emergency number) and ask. I have done that.

Oh, and also there are lots of good websites found very quickly through googling, and many include tips on the legalities aspect.

Anyway, I have not had good luck. I live in an urban area and all the non-compactor dumpsters are locked, as far as I have found. This includes stores of all sizes and varieties. Urgh.
post #16 of 31
My friend just informed me that my local Randalls throws away all their (packaged) bakery stuff every day (doesn't discount them at all) and asked if I'd go dumpstering with her. She thought I'd say no. My only bet is that they have a compacter. I'll have to check.

When I worked at Michael's, I HATED that we had a compacter. We threw away such awesome stuff!! I am betting most of the stores in our strip malls do, but I'm going to have to check. I would really like to start doing this.
post #17 of 31
Originally Posted by Jackies Ladybug View Post
does anyone know the legalities of doing this in california? i have never done it for fear of being "busted" but know there are some great finds out there.
It varies by city, you would have to look up the code in your area.

Denver ... It's illegal to sell food that have been dumpster dived. That's it. However, if you are on private property, you could be cited for tresspassing, but we've never had issues with that.

Englewood ... is a small suburb adjactent to Denver, there it is totally illegal to take anything from the alley's or dumpsters. It technically all belongs to the waste management company if it's in a trash can/ dumpster.

You all can also check out dumpsterworld.com --- it's a forum board, but they are not very "friendly" to new people, but you can read a lot of past posts, etc.

From my last post on this thread, we've sold another 3 books on Half.com that were pulled from a residentail dumpster on Monday. That's another $53 dollars in my pocket and all we did was find the books and list them and will get them mailed off today.
post #18 of 31
My dh used to work for a retailer that shared a dumpster and compactor with a Cost Plus. We would score all sorts of furniture and decoration pieces. We'd fix up whatever was wrong with the furniture and sell it on Craigslist or keep it if it was something we needed. We have a really nice hall table in our entry way that dh sanded the finish off of and refinished and our dresser just needed knobs!

We drive by those dumpsters everyonce in a while, but never see anything good anymore.
post #19 of 31
When I lived in Baltimore, I would go dumpster picking at Panera Bread after closing. I got all sorts of bagels, loaves of bread, pastries, etc.
post #20 of 31
i always think of bagel dumpsters as the "gateway drug" to dumpster diving in full force. bagel dumpsters are usually so neat and clean, the bagels are usually tied in a bag with only other bagels... i have even dumpster dived (dumpster dove?) at bagel places that sorted their bagel trash into vegan and non-vegan bagels. clearly they knew those bagels were being rescued. and once you see how easy it is to dumpster bagels, everything else seems possible. next thing you know, you are trying to climb a fence because there's a perfectly good looking bicycle destined for a dumpster inside a fenced trash area. have you ever tried to haul a bicycle over a fence!? well, it's possible... all because of bagel dumpsters.
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