Dumpster Diving! Find Your Treasures and Dive Like a Pro!

Updated on March 24, 2020
Bishop55 profile image

I love sharing what I know about cooking, alternative medicine, health, frugal living, fun, animals, and how to live a better life!

Let's Dive!


Dare to Go Dumpster Diving!

You can learn to dumpster dive like a pro. Bear with me here...

Being the tightwad, cheapskate that I am, and living in a busy household, any opportunity I encounter to save money, up-sell, reuse, and re-purpose is going to get my full attention.

It could be age related, but I find the older I get, the less I care what people think of this particular behavior. I work hard; I’ve never been on welfare, food stamps, disability or public assistance! I don't consider myself poor or underprivileged, this is just another activity to supplement the richness of my life!

I love finding usable items that are FREE! The thrill is not only in the cost, but in the actual search and hunt. You just never know what you’ll find!

I understand many will argue this is crossing the line of frugality. But if you have no shame, then you have game to dumpster dive! And I'm going to tell you how to do it!

A diving diva who just located a beautiful piece of artwork!
A diving diva who just located a beautiful piece of artwork! | Source

Waste Not, Want Not

Americans are grossly wasteful. Most are snobby and pretentious; they feel entitled to "new" things and are unreasonably afraid of germs. Think about it, you're more likely to get sick or catch the flu from riding the local bus or subway. Because of these generalizations, most people will be repulsed at the thought of dumpster diving. However, anyone brave enough to overlook these fears can be greatly rewarded when exploring these forbidden urban crevices, caves, caverns and well to put it bluntly...GOLDMINES!

Pros of Dumpster Diving

  • It can be highly profitable. Fnd clothing, furniture, toiletries, jewelry, electronics, pet supplies, toys, antiques, other treasure, even food and medications!
  • It's fun.
  • It's environmentally responsible.
  • It's a great activity for city dwellers.
  • It's fun to do with a friend!

Cons of Dumpster Diving

  • It can be time-consuming.
  • It's messy.
  • You can get in trouble if the dumpster you dive is located within a gated space or marked "no trespassing," so be mindful of that! If you have any doubts about diving in a certain dumpster or location, call the business owner or the local police department and see what they say.

The Law About Dumpster Diving

Freegan.info (interesting site) discusses the history of the law about dumpster diving.

Supplies for Dumpster Diving

Some basic supplies should be used when going on a diving expedition.

  1. A flashlight, screwdriver, and folding knife.
  2. Heavy yet flexible gloves.
  3. Non-descript, durable clothing.
  4. A bag, backpack, or satchel to carry treasure away.
  5. Always wear thick-soled shoes or boots.
  6. A diving stick or thick broom handle to push and pick through the dumpster with, because when you find a dumpster full of treasure, you want to search it thoroughly. Or a stick with a nail attached for poking and prodding. Antennas and walking canes work great too.
  7. A comfy well-fitted hat, or hair ties to tie hair back with.
  8. To keep in the car: boxes and bags for sorting items, and a can of Clorox Disinfecting Wipes or other disinfectant. When a dive ends, thoroughly wash your hands and clean treasures.

Tips for Dumpster Diving

  1. Dive in the early evening, or at night. The reasoning behind this is because households normally put out their trash at night, and business owners put it out at the end of the business day.
  2. Become invisible. You are most likely going to encounter strangers on your dive. Pretend they do not exist. Your activities will more than likely make them uncomfortable, so don't engage and make them more anxious.
  3. When possible, go with a buddy for safety.
  4. Do NOT take items located outside of a dumpster, or other items not clearly labeled as trash. It's okay to take things that are clearly abandoned or discarded, but items that have not been so classified are off limits.
  5. Do NOT make a mess. Leave the dumping site cleaner than you found it. Throwing items out of your way when diving is still littering.
  6. Have fun!
  7. Stay open minded! Don't go looking for particular items, you're unlikely to find them.

Scout Your Location Out

Stay ahead of the expedition by scouting dumpsters you plan to raid. All dumpsters that are emptied by the refuse department have to be accessible from the road, so use the road to scout them. Take advantage of Google Maps, virtual resources, and even physically viewing your dump ahead of time!

Safety Suggestions When Diving

  1. If confronted by a store owner or manager and asked to vacate, consider just relocating to a new diving location. There are plenty of uncharted waters to find treasure; after all, you're seeking treasure, not trouble. If confronted by strangers, a simple "I'm looking for boxes" should send them away.
  2. Keep an eye and ear out for animals and other scavengers; mice, rats and raccoons could be lurking.
  3. Be considerate of other divers you may encounter.
  4. Never get into a dumpster, this is just unsafe and a big bad idea. If you can't reach an item solo or with the help of your buddy, leave it.
  5. Finally, do NOT dive barehanded. Because objects such as glass, chemicals, and even potential bio-hazards can be found, ALWAYS wear gloves.

Free Groceries!


Where to Go Diving!

Residential dumpsters in apartment complexes and dorms. If you happen to live in one of these locations you can also have a quick dive when depositing your own weekly trash. As for dorms, go 2-3 days before the "move-out" date; call the university to get those dates, or look online. Many students throw out brand new items simply because they lack space to take it home! Schools with higher tuition often produce better finds!

Residential homes. Drive-by diving. Find furniture, appliances, even scrap metal. The treasure is endless.

Motels and hotels. Endless free soap and toiletries.

Discount stores. Unopened vitamins, medications, household goods, clothing, and cleaning supplies.

Wholesale florist shops. Greeting cards, craft supplies, and quick bouquets for loved ones.

Candy and toy stores. Great for gifts.

Garden centers. Many plants, seeds and supplies can be revived with a little TLC.

Bookstores. You'll never be without a cheesy romance novel again!

Grocery stores. Dented and bent canned goods, boxed goods, bakery items, bread, recently expired prepackaged food, even fruit and produce! However, anything leaking, bulging, or obviously opened should be avoided.

All of these locations can be absolute goldmines during holidays when people are more wasteful than normal.

Why Do Households and Business Owners Throw This Stuff Away?

Most of the time the cost to repackage, resell, reuse, or dispose of outweighs profit. Individuals, especially younger people, are lazy and less likely to recycle or donate. One man's trash is another mans treasure.

Are You a Dumpster Diver?

Would you go dumpster diving?

See results

© 2014 Rebecca


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image


      2 weeks ago

      Love Dumpster Diving. I have been struggling to find the best supplies until I found Dumpster Hunt, which is loaded with dumpster diving accessories: https://www.dumpsterhunt.com/

    • mactavers profile image


      4 years ago

      I'm not into dumpster diving but your Hub is very interesting. Many cities have days where larger items can be placed by the curb for disposal and I've found several nice pieces of furniture.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Finding treasures at dumpsters works for many people but not for me. Great hub with interesting thoughts.

    • Bishop55 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      Hi Healthyannie...yes google plus away. Thanks for asking and I'm glad you enjoyed this! :)

    • Healthyannie profile image

      Annie Messeri 

      6 years ago from Spain

      This is a really great article, I love up cycling stuff and you have inspired my to put some of my ideas in an article. Thank you. May I Google plus this article please . . .

    • Christy Kirwan profile image

      Christy Kirwan 

      6 years ago from San Francisco

      I'm not brave enough to dumpster dive, but I do occasionally curb shop. I'm pretty impressed by some of the neat you can find from your suggestions!

    • fiona69 profile image

      Margaret Fiona 

      6 years ago from New York City, USA

      That's a very interesting subject you choose and very nice hubs

    • Suzanne Day profile image

      Suzanne Day 

      6 years ago from Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

      What an interesting subject! I have often been guilty myself of putting things in dumpsters that others could use...and I'm a rabid op shopper, so I know the thrill of getting bargain, cheap or FREE goodies! Here in Australia they have a hard rubbish day, where people throw out furniture on the street and millions of people help themselves. Is there a similar scheme for this where you are? Voted useful and rated.

    • Bishop55 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      Flourishanyway...Link away.

      Thanks Glassvisage & Klw1157...I love comments!

      I figure if you can disinfect it or wash it, why can't we reuse it? My neighbor dives other neighbors, she's saved tons on kid toys-the huge Step2 type of stuff, tents, all kinds of things. The metal collectors in my town are quick. We put a bike out years ago before recycling metal and it was gone in 10 minutes. I've gotten clever about only going to thrift stores on days when I can get %20 off, plus use a discount card for another %35. I think I'm starting to squaek when I walk I'm so cheap

    • glassvisage profile image


      6 years ago from Northern California

      Very interesting! I am all about being frugal and I have somewhat dumpster-dove in college at the end of the year when the students are moving or graduating and throwing out perfectly fine belongings (by somewhat, I mean I would pick up what was left outside the dumpsters but never went for that extra step of going inside the dumpster ;) I'm glad you included a lot of information about staying safe while doing this.

    • klw1157 profile image

      Kevin Washburn 

      6 years ago from Macon, GA

      Interesting article, while I wouldn't say I consider myself to be a dumpster diver, certainly not certified, I do classify myself as a junk man and have made a living (at least partially) over the last 4.5 years by redoing and selling much of what others have discarded. It is a terrible shame how much we waste in this country as opposed to other lands. Perfectly good, usable, wearable, edible items are thrown away every day. I am with you in concept and since my focus is mostly furniture and home accessories, I can say with certainty that my heart does beat a little faster when I see that someone has left an old chest or chair out by the street for the trash man. I have no shame in taking it cleaning it up, repairing it if need be and selling it. The money I make doing that spends (or saves) just as well as any I make doing anything else. Again this was good work I will enjoy following and reading future hubs!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      6 years ago from USA

      Terrific hub on an entertaining and unusual topic. I'd love to link this on my Frugal Engineering hub if you wouldn't mind. My dad has come home with some real finds as a result of scoping out a high income neighborhood on trash day. If it's at the curb, it's free game. I don't dumpster dive but was almost tempted when during the Xmas season I returned excess, unopened tree lights to Target. I was told all such items went in the trash, even if unopened. I hope someone went diving and used them. Great hub, again. Up+++ and sharing, pinning.

    • Bishop55 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from USA

      Same here! I have not done food either, but...I'm not against it. I've got a task list to call a few of my favorite hotels here soon and make sure I can dive there! LOL. Idk why, but this entire topic just makes me laugh and smile. I'm so past the disgust of it. When others are starving to death and generally going without (everything) in 3rd world contries, any negativiy on this topic can just be ignored instantly!

      As for the furniture comment you made...I've found a $5 can of epoxy paint can fixe anything lik e new the stuff is amazing! Thanks for your ccomment! Hope you have a great day.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 

      6 years ago

      I live in a complex where there are big dumpsters and I will occasionally pull furniture out to refinish and paint decoratively-- some I've sold over the years. I have yet to take any food out of a dumpster, though, but you make it almost seem tempting. I'm totally a waste not, want not kind of person. Great hub!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, toughnickel.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)