Freegan Ways

Dumpster Diving 101

There are a lot of people who find this an interesting topic. Some even have questions on how to go about doing a dumpster dive. So, I decided to share what I have learned and make it as plain and simple as possible. Life is difficult enough, why making something that would lead to reclaiming items bound for a landfill that could still be used to help yourself and others. Here we go, folks.

  • Dumpster diving is considered scavenging. It is completely legal in the United States.
  • Check with the cities ordinance office to see if there are any local laws against it.
  • If the dumpster is locked, behind a locked gate or attached to a building – don’t touch it. That would be illegal.
  • Leave the area as clean or cleaner than when you got there. Common courtesy is a great thing.
  • Wear jeans, old sneakers, long sleeves and gloves. Be covered so that nothing icky actually gets on you.
  • Have a flashlight (good one). I even have a head lamp that I picked up for a dollar.
  • Bring bags/boxes to carry away your treasure.
  • Never go alone. NEVER!
  • It’s best to dive at night (preferably after the store has closed). I know. I said it is not illegal but some cops may not care.
  • If the police do show up. Be honest. Honesty is going to be your savior the entire time. For me, I told a Sheriff’s Deputy that I was diving for produce. He asked why and I said it was to supplement our groceries because we just don’t have enough money to make it through the month (not lying). He wished us luck.
  • When you get home with your haul, wash it all very well. Put away what needs to be put away and the rest can stay on the counter.
  • Check for expiration dates. You don’t want to make yourself ill. The good thing is that most items (if kept at proper temperatures) are still good for at least 3 more days. Sometimes up to a week.
  • Also, if you see a lot of a single item, check the internet to see if there was a recall. Usually there is a good reason for them to be in the dumpster.
  • If you are diving for items other than edible. Be smart. Make sure, if it’s broken, that you can fix it and use it. Make sure it is something that you can use.
  • I’ve also done a dive, once or twice, at a local thrift store. So much gets thrown away. It’s so sad – I’ve pulled clothing and backpacks out. Cleaned them up and donated them to another thrift store and to a family or two.

Well, there ya go. Those are my basic rules for diving. If you have any questions, please – ask! If I don’t know the answers, I’ll find out the answers. Peace and love.


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