Dumpster Diving

I first remember hearing about dumpster diving in the mid 80’s where people found perfectly good unwrapped food that was being thrown out by supermarkets.

I was shocked to see how the trend has continued and people are now making a living from their diving, going to dumpsters from high end stores or rich neighbourhoods.

Here’s one video of someone getting make up: https://youtu.be/jYv7INAPfjU

And here’s one of a woman who keeps or sells or donates the stuff she finds: https://youtu.be/Zm2RCfxKkss

I absolutely love thrifting, but I would really draw the line at going through a big dumpster for stuff. What does everyone think?

We have a particular poster who has done this. Perhaps he’ll shed some light on the matter.

I’ve done it. I was staying with people who did on a regular basis, and they offered to take me.

Stuff was in sealed bags, shoved in a big, not especially smelly container with a lot of other sealed bags. Yeah, there was a bit of a ‘What am I doing, rummaging through the trash?’ moment, but it’s hard to stay disgusted at a bunch of clean sealed bags. I found it more horrifying to see the sheer quantity and variety of perfectly good food going to waste. We even got beer, because one bottle in a pack had been smashed and the box was a little damp and ripped, plus some bread rolls and probably more I don’t recall.

One place did have fruit in the bins, which some were squashed and not quite as clean to work with, but everything we got was stuff that was going to be peeled anyway, and we washed it once we got back. The bin was obviously washed out often; if they’d stuck the same container out the front with a label saying ‘Discount- short dated’ on it, I wouldn’t have thought twice about buying most of the contents. I saw much worse fruit picking. Seen worse working in cafes too, for that matter.

The idea is much more disgusting than the reality, in my opinion and experience.

It really depends on where you dive and what you dive for. In Oslo many smaller groceries receive new produce every morning, so they throw out whatever didn’t sell every day after closing. That produce is the same stuff you could have bought an hour before closing. Give it a proper rinse to rid you of the “ughh”-factor and it should be perfectly fine.

They actually started padlocking their dumpsters because diving them got so popular.

I have seen stores like Penny’s and TJMaxx throwing items in a dumpster. Returned clothing and opened pkgs, I assume. Seems such a waste. I went behind a grocery store once to put a sonic sack in a dumpster and it was full of meat. I guess it got outdated, there was shit loud of steaks and chops.

Back in the 70s, when my brother and I were teens and beer can collecting was a thing, when we were on vacations we would rummage through the dumpster at whatever Holiday Inn we were staying at, looking for beer cans to fill out our collection.

I don’t do it myself but I’ve always been sort of interested. There’s a pretty active subreddit community:


While most of the reddit posts are DD from commercial venues, a lot are discarded personally owned items. College dorm move-out day is especially popular.

Shoeless - we do still have quite a few people in my city who rummage for cans. I do it a little myself, but only by picking up cans that people have left around, and not actually going into garbage bins.

As for dumpster-diving itself, in general - it’s something that disgusts me so much that I would never do it. From what I’ve heard about dumpster-diving, it can sort of be done safely, you can get good healthy food (sometimes,) and it’s probably good for the environment and your wallet because free food and less food waste.

However, I am pretty fussy about the food I eat being of good quality, and that’s a crapshoot at best when taking stuff out of the garbage. (I have heard stories about people finding moldy food in the garbage and cutting the mold off, eating the rest of the food, and being fine, but I could not bring myself to eat any part of food with mold on it.) And I like planning to eat specific foods rather than just accepting whatever might be found in the garbage.

Besides the fact that I just don’t want to go digging through garbage in the first place because I don’t want to get dirty and smelly and who knows what disgusting things I might find.

I don’t dive for food or clothing, but I HAVE gone into some construction site dumpsters for materials. You could finish a basement rec room with what they toss out during demolition. I’m especially likely to go after electrical fixtures, electrical boxes and receptacles, metal framing members, and similar items. Lots of these materials are just a year or two old.

Yep, construction dumping is akin to blatant wastefulness. Look what people are building with pallets.

I love how many Amazon Prime ads came up for me on that Reddit.

There was a Walmart that did remodeling and were throwing out fixtures and PALLET RACK! :eek:

I got a pass from management (they couldn’t say, “Yeah, it’s Okay”, but they wouldn’t call the cops on me) and salvaged hundreds of dollars worth of material from that dumpster. Industrial grade pallet rack. Good stuff when you have a big-ass garage.

I was in a Walmart a few years ago, they were selling and getting rid of stuff for a move to a new building. A lot misc. stuff going out the back into dumpsters. I wanted all the paint color strip samples (don’t ask, art shit). An asst. Mgr walked me out the back and I got 'em. Yay me. I still have 1000s if any one needs some.

Eldest bro had a habit of dumpster diving for salvageable computer equipment. Even got his picture in the Washington Post once for picking through an evicted company’s hardware.

My brother worked for a convenience store as a teenager. One day he called my parents to let them know that all of the store shelving was being replaced and the perfectly-good old stuff was out back, ready to be disposed of. As a result, there’s at least thirty or forty feet of store shelving in their garage and basement. Also, a friend who operated a small ethnic grocery store picked up a bunch more of the shelving.

A staggering amount of food (and other stuff too) is thrown out because it doesn’t fit a certain narrow purpose. (Mostly, that purpose seems to be to enhance the public image of the seller.) Some of it truly is bad, but a great deal of it is good, for its broader purpose (i.e. it’s still good to eat, it’s wearable but not in style, it’s outdated but it runs, and so on).

In other words, the wrong person wants it.

Easy example: If you run an upscale grocery store, or in fact just about any grocery store, you likely can’t allow ugly food to be seen on your shelves because merely having it there would hurt your reputation. But if you’re a poor person, ugly food (just unattractive, not unsafe) is a hell of a lot better than no food.

But a business is not going to spend extra on sorting and moving their garbage - at least not without any benefit to themselves. They just want it gone, and they know that if they put it in their dumpster it will get gone. And - poor people don’t come into the store much. And if they did come into the store, they couldn’t afford much anyway, so they don’t bother.

What I’m getting at is, it would be far simpler and easier and more efficient for large stores to run full-fledged major food bank operations on their own premises. One more refrigerator and freezer, one more aisle. But the process of denying that there’s anything being wasted, and of denying that their particular store could ever house a wilted lettuce or an outdated but OK can of soup, prevents it. Or denying that “those people” exist or could show up here. I don’t know if that’s pride or greed, or some kind of corporate narcissism (or individual narcissism for that matter), or what - is it about keeping unattractive food off the shelves? is it about keeping unattractive people out of the store and out of the neighbourhood? - but there it is.

If you could do the equivalent of the current “dumpster diving” in a simple and upfront and dignified way, a lot of people would benefit and waste would be reduced.