Monday, May 05, 2008

Weekend Full of Waste and Treasure - Dumpster Diving Experience

Mom: "WHAT are you doing? Oh my Ga! What you do? Mommy says stop that now! Oh my Ga... Don't you have a job baby? I mean, what's the matter with you???!!!!!"

I went dumpster diving and my mother called. Friday night. I have been training her for years not call on Friday nights - but I guess you can't change your mother. Friday night, when most are doing traditionally fun Friday night things, I am...looking for treasure in the trash!



Me: "Mom, calm down...it's OK. It's not like I am touching anything gooey or diving in a medical receptacle!" (That didn't help.)

I told my mom that I needed both hands for this endeavor and I would call her tomorrow. She hung up without saying goodbye. I looked at my partner in filth and said, "She's really REALLY upset about this."

Of coarse, it would have helped if I started out by saying I was doing this for my NWPR Blog. (evil giggle) But sometimes I like to freak my mother out! Mwha ha ha ha!

My Mother's reaction is very common. When you think of Dumpster Diving you imagine the down and out scavenging for food - anything to survive. You don't imagine they would find anything of real value - or what you find valuable. Does this have value to you?



Many Americans wouldn't imagine ever finding these brand new Kitchen Aid Food Processor Attachments in a dumpster. Who would throw these away? The items in the above picture are worth at least $70. Retail

Or how about a brand new down feather bed? Brand name $98 jacket? Various KitchenAid Mixer attachments? Brand new sheets? Not all department stores donate their wares.



I was inspired to fully explore Dumpster Diving this year because of the reports I have heard on NPR.
Here is an interview with a woman who wants to marry chic with scavenging!

And maybe you saw the video from my last post about the New York couple who get their food from a dumpster?



I didn't experiment with food diving...yet. That is later in the week. Frankly, I was exhausted from Dumpster Diving because... I GOTS ME SOME TREASURE!!!!!

My hands are sore. I have a couple of bruises, my apartment is stuffed with "garbage!" So the food experiment will have to wait. Here are some of the items I found.

Old gas BBQ - I left it and someone else took it away later in the day.


Disco Ball Baby! Lots of wires that my Dumpster Diving Partner could use, a cement power drill and ... another BBQ. I found 3 very nice BBQs.


A couple of broken chairs that I will repair and pass on, two nice bar stools. When I was pulling these out of an apartment complex dumpster a guy came up to me.


Guy: "Hey. What you doing?"
Me: "....check out this chair man! There's a TV in there ( saw 3 TVs that night )!
Guy: "Yeah. It's a real shame the things people throw away. Man. If I wasn't moving out of here next week I would do what you are doing."
Me: "Yeah. It's amazing what you can find."

He moved on. You're probably wondering what do you do when someone sees you?
Dumpster Divers have rules. I researched online that you do the following.

BE SAFE - no sketchy dumpsters, medical dumpsters...etc.

1. Have a partner because lids can drop on top of you and things can be heavy
2. Wear protection - gloves and full clothing.
3. Spend only 2 minutes or less looking in a dumpster. If you don't see anything that catches your eye leave.
4. If it takes longer than 2 minutes to remove an item - leave.
5. If someone tells you to leave - leave and never return
6. Know if this is illegal in your town. Most places it is not. But respect trespassing signs and never open a locked dumpster.
7. Always leave it cleaner than you found it.
8. If someone asks what you are doing, "I'm looking for boxes." Then be willing to leave behind your finds.

Barely used cooler with wheels, tiki torches and an old fire pit grill that is now yard art!


I found a lot of furniture and only picked up a few pieces. I have this thing about furniture. I like it. I like fixing them up and perhaps gifting them or selling them at consignment shops.


I found one dumpster near a huge apartment complex that was stuffed with barely used clothing and shoes. I pulled out this enormous duffle bag and it was full of men's size 13 Nike shoes. Barely worn! My Diving Partner found a bag full of women's size 8 shoes...including Sketchers and Michele K sports shoes.


Here are a pair of shoes rescued from Landfill. These shoes retail for $75 on sale now for $50.


My co-worker, Robin Rilette, was uneasy when I told her what I did for the weekend. I have a feeling, she is shocked by what I found and thinking...how wasteful Americans are. But Wait! There's more!

Very nice clothes including a GAP jean jacket.


Outdoor Bar that needs one leg fixed (got a pal who can do that) and wash the cover!


This amused me. Recycling bin in the trash, next to paper, next to barley worn shoes.


More furniture...


I had to drop off a key at Thom Kokenge's and this was after a round of "Rescuing Things." He was amazed! Except with one of my arty pieces. It is now hanging artwork on someone's garage! Out of the landfill - safely above a garbage can - viewed by alley cats and happy to be reused.




Tomorrow I will share my thoughts about this experience and what I plan to do with my found treasures. Oh. And I will share my convesation with my mother - who lost a night's sleep because of me!

7 comments:

flyingfreckle said...

I started dumpster diving in 1964 at the age of 9. Motive? I was hungry, and inevitably ate my sack lunch while walking the 6 blocks to school. When lunchtime rolled around, my two brothers and I would begin our quest to find food. My 11-year-old brother would try to wheel-and-deal food out of the other kids, my 8-year-old brother would work the "pity" angle and I would head into the garbage cans. Mostly I got all my daily vegetable requirements covered, as that was the biggest bulk of discarded food, but occasionally I would score fruit, which was my favorite.

My brothers and I are all grown now but our basic approach to life is the same as those early days. But for me, diving has been a combination of a scavenger hunt, a treasure hunt and Christmas. Frankly, living in a college town is a dumpster diver's dream.

Zololkis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
justme27 said...

Great post! I will have to try department store dumpsters now. Today I'm waiting till I get off work to grab some Little Tykes outdoor toys that were left at the curb. :)

justme27 said...

Great post! I will have to try department store dumpsters now. Today I'm waiting till I get off work to grab some Little Tykes outdoor toys that were left at the curb. :)

Anonymous said...

Last year while living at an apartment complex I found a Sony Vaio laptop that only needed blowing the dust out of the fan and the operating system reinstalled. Blowing the dust was free but the Sony reinstall disk was about $12 from Sony. Now I have a very nice laptop, that is only 1 1/2 years old and my total cost is $12 plus a little TLC. Also while living there I found bicycles, BBQ grills, a perfectly good leather executive chair, numerous bar stools, shelving and many other useful products. Dumster divers forever!!

Anonymous said...

Last year while living at an apartment complex I found a Sony Vaio laptop that only needed blowing the dust out of the fan and the operating system reinstalled. Blowing the dust was free but the Sony reinstall disk was about $12 from Sony. Now I have a very nice laptop, that is only 1 1/2 years old and my total cost is $12 plus a little TLC. Also while living there I found bicycles, BBQ grills, a perfectly good leather executive chair, numerous bar stools, shelving and many other useful products. Dumster divers forever!!

Anonymous said...

I can happily say that I've been dumpster diving for years. I have never paid for a single piece of furniture in my entire "single" life.
I've found sofas, loveseats, barstools, entertainment centers, stereo cabinets, bedframes, dressers, nightstands, end tables,
kitchen tables, chairs beyond number, and a whole slew of other useful things. Oftentimes things will need a bit of cleaning,
but if you're willing to put in some scrubbing, you can furnish an entire house or apartment for absolutely nothing, with decent-looking furniture.
I've even sold a few pieces of furniture for $50-60, after getting them for free and using them for a few years!
My best find, though, happens to be my prized "Wassily Bauhaus Chair". Go ahead, google it to check the prices.
I got it from the curb, next to someone's trashbin, and I'll never give it up.