Getting Started Dumpster Diving
Okay, So you have decided you are going to start dumpster diving, but you aren't too sure how to get started? Well don't worry. You really don't need a lot to get started. What you are looking for will change what you need some, but you probably already have everything you need right at home.
First you need to give it some thought.
- Are you looking for food?
- Are you looking for furniture?
- Will you be dumpster diving residential or commercial?
- Do you just plan on grabbing things that are on top or are you willing to climb in for the right find?
No matter your choice, the items listed below should cover your basic needs while dumpster diving.
Every Thing You Need To Get Started Dumpster Diving
- Flashlight or head
- Gloves (bring two pair in case the first pair gets cut or gross)
- Head lamp if diving at night
- Meter Stick with a hook at the end or a grabber
- Bucket (for anything that you may need to scoop out or flip over and use as a stool)
- Trash bags small and large
- Hand Sanitizer (even with gloves sometimes you feel the need to sanitize)
- Cooler and Ice (if diving for perishable food)
- Change of clothes (just in case you get wet or gross)
- Basic first aid kit (just to be on the safe side
Dumpster Diving Is Learn As You Go
What you will need while dumpster diving is greatly dependent upon what you are diving for.
Gloves are one of the most important things in my opinion. I prefer the disposable kind. Easy on and off and I don't have to have the same funk on my hands at the next stop. Plus you can peal them off before you leave that dumpster, so the gloves never have to come in the car if you ended up touching something too gross even for a dumpster diver! Thankfully most dumpsters aren't as gross as people imagine!
As you develop a route and learn what you will be finding you will figure out what you really need and what you don't. Remember it is better to be prepared than to get to a dive just to realize you need something.
I remember pulling up to a pet place one time that had dumped probably 1000 pounds of Dog food out of the bags, on that day I forgot trash bags!This was when I was new to dumpster diving and didn't realize stores would actually empty out perfectly good product like that.
So bring too much to begin with so that you know you are covered until you get into a routine and figure out what exactly you will be finding.
Why Do People Dumpster Dive?
There are many reasons people dumpster dive. There is a misconception that only poor or homeless people dumpster dive, when in fact that is nowhere near accurate. As businesses have gotten bigger and people are starting to wise up to their not so nice practices, dumpster diving has slightly become a fad. It is just one of the many ways we can stand up to big businesses and tell them that what they do for profit is NOT OK.
It is estimated that in the USA nearly 40% of our food is wasted. All of this while millions of people are hungry, and nearly 15% of Americans identify themselves and their families as "food insecure".
So you've never dumpster dived and believe that if it's in the dumpster, surely there is a reason and it must be bad right? Not right! Many companies throw out perfectly good food to be able to get full right off instead of selling it off at a deep discount to the consumers.
One grocery chain that I know of throws out all of their produce, good or bad, when a new shipment comes in. Almost instantly their dumpster is half full with produce.
"But it's dirty, it's been in the dumpster" you say. Well did you forget where most produce comes from? Yeah, that's right, it comes from the ground, from dirt! You wash it before you eat it right? Do you really think the dumpster is much worse than the thousands of hands that have touched your produce before it reaches your table? Do you know how many germ infested little kids crab random fruit while walking through the store? You guessed it, LOTS!
So before you judge stop, take a look at what your favorite store wastes. Then tell me you can justify what they do when we have so many hungry people out there. I am not poor, but I will tell you I haven't bought produce in at least 6 months!
Dumpster Diving Safety Tip
It is always best to dumpster dive in pairs or groups. While having someone else with you may mean you have to split what you find, having another person with you benefits you a lot.
- One person can drive while the other person hops out to check. This way if you get uncomfortable with a location you can leave quicker.
- If you come across a huge find you have another person to help you get it out, or just get it out faster.
- If you need to lean into a dumpster you have someone there to spot you so that you don't get injured.
- If police pull up you will have another person with you who knows their legal rights.
- If you pull up on an unsafe condition (which happens if you go behind stores sometimes after dark) you have someone to watch your back.
While dumpster diving is a mostly safe thing to do it is always best to have someone else with you.
Check out a Dumpster diving pro!
© 2012 Annsalo
Carrie Lee Night from Northeast United States on May 12, 2020:
Interesting :) I personally would not take the dive because you could get arrested for trespassing or fined, however, it is a shame how much goes to waste :) I waste alot of food too. Leftovers mostly or food that had gone expired. I sure wish there was more donating going on, but sometimes health codes prevent that from happening. Thank u for sharing :)
Linda Courtney from Bloomsburg, PA on August 12, 2017:
Informative article. I have dumpster dived, but I was always scared of getting caught. Never knew it was really legal. Now I know, maybe I'll try it more.
Annsalo (author) from Somewhere on March 21, 2016:
Calculus, I added another section to the article at the bottom including that they should bring another person. You are right, and there are many reasons people should DD in pairs or groups.
We scored 5 greenhouses brand new in their boxes out of a big box stores dumpster this winter. We sold one, and made up for all the gas we spent on DD that day. The rest are now in use. It really is insane how much is wasted. We have found dumpsters full of non perishable in date food. Often locations have one dumpster for trash and one for food. So it is not gross or covered in anything nasty. We get it out, make sure it is in date and donate it through craigslist being very upfront about where it comes from. People reply in masses because they need food. So if you can't bring yourself to eat what comes from a dumpster consider grabbing it for donations.
Kimberley, that is awful. Here in the USA it is legal in most places as long as the dumpster is not locked or a No Trespassing sign posted. If the place doesn't want to sell it at least others can put it to use.
Kimberley Clarke from England on March 21, 2016:
Here in England people get arrested for taking things from bins that the big supermarkets have thrown away. It is shameful. If the business is happy to waste it, then they shouldn't begrudge people making use of it.
calculus-geometry on March 19, 2016:
I've pulled several usable (and resellable) household goods in new condition out of commercial dumpsters, items just resting at the top of the heap. People think it's crazy until they go and see for themselves. I have the draw the line at food and stepping inside the dumpster though.
I think you should add another item to your checklist: a spotter. It's too easy to get injured or impaled on an object in a dumpster and you might not be able to climb out by yourself if you get seriously hurt.
Annsalo (author) from Somewhere on March 18, 2016:
Big box stores are really bad about just throwing out things that are reusable. It has always really annoyed me. So many people in need yet these companies would rather their stuff go to the trash than help people with it.
I think here in the USA we are constantly told more is better, then more takes over the garage, and we realize we didn't need more anyway. I wish more people would give stuff away instead of throwing stuff out.
Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on March 18, 2016:
Some guy in Austin says he makes a living by dumpster diving. He says big box stores throw out all kinds of resellable items. I am amazed at all the things that people throw out. Why do they buy it in the first place?
Caroline on February 14, 2015:
Normally I'm against killing but this article slerghtaued my ignorance.
LindaSmith1 from USA on November 17, 2012:
Dumpsters behind big stores such as dollar stores, sears, etc is a great place to hit if you can without getting into trouble. These big stores throw perfectly good merchandise, still in boxes, in the trash.