Friday, February 18, 2011

Dumpster Diving Tips for The Uninitiated and Helplessly Cheap

Dumpster Diving takes innocent curb-side picking to the next level. You peruse the streets under a shroud of darkness. It's taboo, perilous, and an addictive good time! I've answered your top dumpster diving questions. These tips will help you determine if diving is right for you.

How Can I get Started?
1) Start small and check curb sides in your city near trash day. 2) Investigate dumpsters in your area. 3) Google "dumpster diving, your city name" with the quotations, making it an exact search. Other divers in your area may have written about good dumpsters to raid.

 [Mike & Cheryl, my dumpster diving partners in crime, going through dived treasures.]

How do you dumpster dive?
1) We drive behind the business, where the dumpster lives. 2) One person exits the running car and does a cursory hunt through the dumpster. 3) If it's picked over or there's nothing good, we move on to the next one. Just get out there and try a couple, you'll get a feel for it and establish a route.

[We find lots of perfectly good food too. I'll cover food diving in future posts.] 

Do you jump inside the dumpsters?
You don't have to. You can open the lid and gingerly pull out goods or jump in and dig deep. If you're grossed out by the idea, wear rain boots and bring gloves. I don't jump in myself, but only because I'm incredibly clumsy with the balance of a drunken toddler.

[Some of our favorite books from the dumpster. We kept some, sold some, and donated the rest.]

What supplies will I need?
- Boxes/Crates or bags in your trunk (for holding your finds)
- Bright flash lights or headlights
- Gloves and Rainboots
- A friend or two (to hold flash lights, help you haul stuff, and to fend off miscreants) 

[You know you wish you could dive into this pile of toys.]
Is it Illegal?
I've found no evidence stating dumpster diving is illegal in Florida, where I hunt. (This Miami Diving Pro couldn't, either.) If you're concerned, conduct some research on the laws in your area.

  [I Shared this on Monday: My favorite trash find] 

Final Tips for Good Dumpster Diving Karma

Be Courteous:
Leave the dumpster site just like you found it. Make a mess and business owners will find ways to ensure you never come back with locks, security cameras, and fences.

Take what you want, but use what you take: You'll be tempted to rescue every item you encounter; don't, or you'll soon be the next guest on Hoarders. Leave treasures for your fellow divers to enjoy. 
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.


  1. Great tips sadly we don't have many dumpsters out there, but people can throw sometimes some great stuff. We actually own in my house a lamp we found while driving through a street, it was there for the garbage truck, and it was new, it functions, and its very pretty.

  2. a good one here in my area is to check out the thrift store donation areas after closing. Just don't let someone think that you're dumping or its a big fine.....

    1. Wouldn't that be stealing from the thrift store

  3. Good tips. I'll have to do the googling and see for our area. We do stop for roadside things {just did for a radio/record player last weekend}, but we've never gone dumpster diving.

  4. There aren't a terrific amount of dumpsters where I live, but that hasn't stopped me from snooping through them. I've found all kinds of perfectly good stuff. Some of the best ones are around apartments and student housing. So far, I haven't dived for food, but I have been gifted with homegrown tomatoes from a local farmer's market. They were too ripe for the farmer to sell but made jars of tasty picante sauce for my pantry.

  5. These are great tips for Diving! I guess I've been doing it my whole life, I learned it from my mom when I was a kid! We used to cruise through the apartment complexes, where a lot of people all shared the dumpsters. Oh, some of the stuff we found! My mom would re-sell a lot of the items at Flea Markets. It was an extra income and a great hobby. I never outgrew it! Everyone should try it just once :-)

  6. I recall reading a magazine article about Dumpster Diving and the Freegan lifestyle somewhere. I find it intriguing and adventurous, but have yet to dive myself. I fell into the category of thinking it was illegal and I'm never one for inviting trouble, but now I'll definitely be looking into it. You and your friends have certainly been successful with your finds, and it has sparked my interest.

  7. Hi Van, thanks so much for stopping by my blog awhile back (sorry I'm late returning the favor!). Wow, did I pick a perfect post to comment on! While I don't have dumpsters to look out for, I will cruise through the neighborhood the day before trash day. I recently found two wonderful chairs, a really cool wooden banded box, a old duck decoy, some really great old pieces of lumber and two very nice sawhorses that I plan on making into a great craft table so that I can relinquish the kitchen table back to it's rightful use as a place to eat instead of covered in glue and glitter! What a great blog!

    ~Kristal at Grace Goods

  8. I still need to check out some apartments like you guys have suggested. Hmm...

  9. Had a flashback to Orlando, Florida, 2nd older brother and his friend used to go dumspter diving for returnable bottles and would toss me in the dumspter at the local bar to fetch them. Pretty sure they didn't give me any of the cash from those bottles and that smelly job. Perhaps that's what gave me the recycle 'bug'. I usually only thrift and an occasional curbside find but I might have to start checking out dumpsters again haha. Thanks for the great blog I just discovered...Lori aka kikithespunkymunky

  10. Lori..I have 2 older brothers, and have bittersweet memories of being forced to be the lackey in many ways...but I was never tossed in the trash! I think you'll enjoy trash hunting much more as an adult :)

  11. I know here in New York (upstate, I don't know about the city), most places will call the cops if you go inside of the dumpsters - the business/school owners are liable if you get injured because you're jumping in and out, or if you get cut by glass, etc.

    But if you stay outside of it when the cops are around, or if you think people are watching you, there shouldn't be any problems.

    What we learned: always bring friends, a big car, and flashlights.

    Oh, the best place to dive is at colleges during finals week and right after finals. Students moving out throw out perfectly good furniture, books (that you can resell!), lamps, and so much more. I take the whole week off and dig through all the schools around here.

  12. Two things I wanted to get into this year was 1. Metal Detecting the Beaches here in Miami and 2. Dumpster Diving. Every morning I read on my BBerry the Local and National News Headlines. A few weeks ago I read a professor out in TX who dived for himself and for his Church to give to Charity and the Needed it sparked my imagination into all of the stuff I have ever seen tossed into dumpsters and I really wanted to check it out for myself...Do you guys still hunt here in Miami? Are there any clubs that do it?

  13. Renting Dumpster deal in both small and large scale collection of waste from homes, office premises and major cities. It becomes easier to rent the services of a dumpster than owning one.

  14. I live in Aventura and I am looking for a group. I would like to do this things but in groups. Anybody up for it?

  15. I loved this site, thank's for sharing inmportant post. where to rent a dumpster ? Great low rates on dumpster rental to fit all your dumpster rental needs. Reliable company servicing everything from small dumpsters to a large roll off dumpster

  16. yesterday, a house was moved, they left lots of curbside items... I got a basket & a plant. let lots of goodies. by nighttime, that curb was clean. Yes, practice dumpster karma. if you don't use it don't take it.
    Last week i scored a brand new silver handtowel holder, and I;ve wanted one for a while. It still had the price tag from Bed,Bath,Beyond $19.99. I cleaned it a little. and it looks great in my bathroom. glad i didn't splurge the $20 for one this past summer.

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