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Dumpster Diving Answered

Hey I was wondering if anybody had a good dumpster diving IBLE. I've already read the one for small world or whatever and was wondering if anyone had stuff to add or a better one. Thx.


I once found a black bag in a dumpster. i looked inside and found some trash.

I got this from a book called "Recipes for Disaster: An Anarchist Cookbook" really great a must have. It's like a lighter and less dangerous anarchist's cookbook. I slightly edited it but most is original. Here is a passage on Dumpster Diving. You can read the full book at http://www.archive.org/stream/RecipesForDisasterAnAnarchistCookbook/recipes_for_disaster_djvu.txt

The first step is to find out who in your town is wastefiil. That's the same question as  "Who has a dumpster?" If you just want to explore the world of waste reclamation, get aimless: most any dumpster will do. But if you have specific needs, do what any savvy shopper does — look in the yellow pages! Chances are, if they sell it in front, they throw it away out back. So . . . what do you need? There's bound to be a dumpster out there to serve you: food, bike equipment, construction materials, kitchenware, books, electronics, clothes, flowers, shoes, bread, bread, bread. There are even fancy nut dumpsters,
and I'm here to tell you: yes, you can get sick of almonds.

Keep your eyes peeled for invisible dumpsters without walls or lids. Weeks after college gets out for the summer, those sad, rusting bicycles still locked up on campus are in such dumpsters, and you'd better grab your bolt cutters and cut them free before some maintenance worker transfers them to the big dumpster in the sky. You can also use scissor jacks or bottle jacks to break locks, and if you do so with the right confidence, everyone will think you're just reclaiming your own bicycle. By the same token, don't miss leftover materials at construction sites, or piles of perfectly good items set out on curbs throughout the suburbs.

When you're looking for specific goods, retail locations are great, but don't count out distribution centers. These are usually listed in the phone book. A juice distributor, for example, will throw out all its juices long before the expiration date, when there isn't time for them to be sent to retailers, sit on shelves until they're purchased, then sit on shelves until they're consumed before that deadline finally arrives — not that expiration dates usually indicate much about food safety, in my experience! Anyway, in this case you're consuming food even the most bourgeois would be hard-pressed to write off" as garbage. You can also look on packages of specific products for manufacturing locations, and try dumpstering there.

Dumpstering at self-storage units is worth your time. By definition, everything in one of those dumpsters has been specifically chosen, moved, and stored by someone. Finally, they had to come to terms with the fact that in this world of over-abundance, they would never have space for these prized possessions, and toss them out. Here's a glimpse: entire drum sets, VCRs, food, furniture, lumber, dishes, small appliances galore . . .

How about . . . thrift shops!? Yes, very wasteful. They cut the cords off trashed appliances, same as we do in the aisles of Wal-Mart, but these can be replaced. University theater departments are another "seasonal" harvest: wood, props, cloth, costumes. Musical instrument repair shops — lord have mercy! Construction dumpsters are luscious, but look out for nails. Carpet installers have dumpsters full of cut-ofFs. Any apartment complex, especially at the end of the month, can be a one-stop shop for the revolution. Yes, you can dumpster computers. Don't count out public trash receptacles for a handy snack, especially soon after lunchtime in a downtowoi area.

When? Always! You have to be persistent with certain dumpsters, but it's worth it to visit When more than a dozen tim.es if lucky thirteen donates one hundred pounds of granola to your cause. Keep tabs on dumpsters that seem sporadic; you may find that they follow an odd but regular schedule. In the case of foodstuffs, when a new shipment arrives it means out vrith the old. When does the truck come?

Timing also concerns the hour of the day. I try to dive at off hours: nights and weekends. Early mornings on weekends are particularly safe if you can hack it. Still, if I'm just looking for a quick snack, I never hesitate to pop back and see what's cookin' — many are the times I've gone around back while my companions went in the front, and I've Dumpster DMng returned with the more impressive score. Also, if I'm walking across town, I try to take the alleys rather than the streets, so I can play peek-a-boo as I go. If there's something
special, I come back later. One more hint: during a hot summer, you won't want to give
food a long time to ferment.

You can get rare earth magnets, which

are extremely powerful, out of the

hard drives of the old computers now

entering the dumpsters of universities

and bourgeois apartment complexes;

the older the computer, the more

powerful the magnet.

Magnets can often be used to reset

counters such as those self-serve

copying corporations once used;

powerful ones can also damage

televisions, videotapes, and



There are timing issues related to season as well. In some towns, different neighborhoods have different curbside pickup days, on which households can put out all their oversize trash. You could call the sanitation department, purporting to be from each neighborhood of the town in succession, to learn all the best days and locations for curbside trash-picking.

If you live in a college town, you are all set. College kids throw out more useful garbage than perhaps any other class of people on earth. The big potlatch is at the end of a school year. Come spring, campuses swarm with wastrels and scavengers of all kinds. What kind of consumer hinging and purging happens in your town?

Certain emergencies make dumpstering a special event. When a grocery store's power goes out for any length of time, they are required to throw out all refrigerated perishables! My first dumpster diving experience coincided with just such an emergency. I was lying on my bed reading a 'zine about dumpster diving, skeptical but ready to conduct my own investigation, when the power went out. Unable to continue reading, I puttered
about in the dark, until finally I hopped on my bike and rode down to the nearest Food Lion. Picture, if you will, the young skeptic rounding the corner to see a construction-size dumpster — bigger than my house at the time! — filled to overflowing with the entire cold food section ... all still frozen! After three hours of ferrying food back and forth umtil my house could fit no more, there was a litde dent in Mt. Food into which I tossed the last of my misgivings.

Now that place and time are covered, what's left is technique. No big deal. There are a Technique few pointers that can increase your joy and prosperity; the subtleties you will learn as you go. Trust your gut, both in terms of where to go and what to take. In the case of food, believe it or not, you have built-in faculties for determining what is safe and what is not:
smell, intuition, deduction. How do you think your hunter/gatherer ancestors survived.^ These — along with the immune system — get dull in a world that's too sterile, but they sharpen up quickly. After a lengthy career, I stiU have never known a dumpster diver to get sick from dumpstered food (except that hilarious scene in Evasion where the author
deliberately eats moldy bread). Of course there are stories, just like there are stories of razor-bladed apples being given out on Halloween — be leery of the ways sub-urban legends reprimand and warn. People get sick all the time, but if any food should be blamed, it's that sugary, plastic-wrapped trash they buy off the shelves.

Be a sneak. It serves the dumpster diver to go unseen and unnoticed. 1 make my rounds after store hours and try to leave the dumpster in better condition than I found it. This way my gathering causes no stress for employees who, quite reasonably, get upset if they have to clean up around a dumpster. If no mess resufts, your patronage is actually a service, since businesses pay for their waste by weight and frequency of pick up. Given all that, if the store becomes openly hostile you have the right to get pissed
off and fight back. If they put a padlock on the dumpster, cut it off with boft cutters and replace it with your own. If you have yet to dumpster a nice pair of bolt cutters, squeeze a tube of superglue into the keyhole. If they replace it with a compacter, push a blanket soaked in gasoline under it and light it on fire. Um, for entertainment purposes only, you know.

Another pointer— never be afraid to get inside that dumpster. The dumpster gods do not smile on window shoppers. Get in there, dig holes, open bags, dump out boxes, be persistent. Just because a business slips up and puts a few layers of bona fide trash in the dumpster doesn't mean they are against putting useful stuff in there too. All the same, watch out for"dumpster juice" — sometimes you just don't need to go any deeper. Wearing sturdy, waterproof, protective shoes won't hurt, either


Making Peace with
Your Inner Raccoon 

What to wear? Dumpsters are mostly dark green, so whatever goes with that vvdll do you well. Some friends in Indianapolis, masters of the craft, dive in furry raccoon suits. That's something to work up to. For starters, get a headlamp — it will free up your hands in the dark — and a nice bag or backpack to fill wnth loot.

Dumpster diving can be rough for the recovering bourgeois. There is hardly anything so deeply ingrained as the middle-class fear of having to go in a trashcan to eat — the ultimate in social failure. Recognize what you may be up against in that regard, and remember, it's a path of a thousand steps. One day you will be able to proudly walk right up to a public trash can, fish out some Chinese leftovers, and eat them right there in front of all your ex-classmates — ^with such ease and confidence that they'll come over to ask for a bite.

Once I was climbing out of the dumpster behind a bread shop, drooling and gigghng of course, when two bread shop employees came out the back door. They looked at me.

I looked at them, we all looked at the bag of bread I was toting like Santa Claus. They were appalled; I felt a little weird. "1 . . . uhh . . ." — ^but the two went back inside before I managed to get out my doctoral thesis on free food. It wouldn't have bothered me much, except that I recognized one of them as the little sister of a kid I was in drug treatment with years earlier. Before I could make a break for it, the two emerged once again, this time with a loaf of fresh potato bread. "Urn, thanks," I said. I don't think she recognized me.

It may help to explain to the dubious and disgusted that you're not actually taking trash, you're intercepting perfectly good materials on their way to the trash. Don't be shy about your means of acquiring supplies, however critical or snobbish your friends may be. Like veganism and abstinence from chemical intoxicants, the issue of dumpstering tends to provoke defensive responses — -for if it isn't unpardonably disgusting after all, then those who have been paying for things all along are straight-up suckers. Flaunt your loveliest dumpstered wares, make a delicious feast of pristine trash-picked cuisine and only tell where it came from afterwards; they'll come around. Excessive squeamishness is counter-revolutionary if anything is.

Converting the Infidels

We learned this one from the FBI. We use it to keep tabs on hotels that might host events for offending corporations or, for that matter, the police, on corporate offices where nasty plots are laid, on the houses of fascist organizers or others whose plans are interesting to us. Look for schedules, notes, anything that gives away secrets. Big scores in this department have provided serious intelligence resources for effective actions, believe you me.

Reverse Dumpstering

Warnings and Hints

It was the Young Lords, I think, who, in the 1960s, when the city government refused to do adequate trash collecting in their neighborhoods, organized their own garbage collection. At the end of a few weeks' labor, they took all the trash they had picked up to the neighborhoods of the wealthy and deposited it there as a massive roadblock. Don't let the wastrels forget how much trash they're producing — make sure it reappears to haunt
them just when they thought they were rid of it. Not long ago, Europeans carried out a successful campaign against superfluous corporate packaging by unwrapping products inside the store and leaving the containers there on the shelves; some years earlier, a group crusading against non-recyclable containers distributed mailing labels, so conscious consumers (or dumpster divers!) could mail these back to their manufacturers.

Some of us once had a problem with this, that's why I bring it up: you've got to watch out for scabies. It was common among us for some time to acquire our sleeping arrangements from a mattress store down the street that would throw away the old mattresses their customers brought in when they got new ones. We have also been tempted by the many foam cushions people leave out with their trash on Thursday nights. Sometimes these seemingly dreamy cushy-cushies are infested with litde bugs that get in your skin and try to eat you. This is a condition to avoid.

Another thing to watch out for is rat poison. The odd shop owner will sometimes pour bleach or other lethal substances onto the edible goodies outback to deter the presence of our fellow dumpster divers, rats. Sometimes you can smell it, and sometimes there will be discoloration on the packaging. Be sure to inspect your score.

Don't feel pressure to use or eat everything you retrieve from the trash — it's not your job to metabolize away the sins of our whole spendthrift civilization. In the case of those nutrient-free sugar cookies, remember — some things are in fact trash, from the very moment they're produced. Don't put them in your body — do what it takes to shut down the industries maniacally producing such junk.

In the opposite situation, where you really need something but the ones holding it hostage won't oblige you by throwing it away, you can expedite the process by doing so yourself inside their establishment, or damaging it so they wall for you. In a related instance, one of us once got caught scamming massive quantities of photocopies from a copying corporation that purported to recycle their waste but in fact did not. All the precious fliers and 'zines she had produced were confiscated, but we dumpstered them back later that night.

In the summer of 2000, following my first few years of dumpstering and the attendant case of pack-ratitis, I found myself caught up in a great purging, an elimination of all the objects choking up my home. It started one Saturday afternoon around 1:00 p.m. as a simple room-cleaning, but sifiing through the layers of dumpstered knickknacks I started to set items aside that had to be returned to the source from whence they'd come. By 2:00, things had changed: I was throwing out cassette tapes and dirty clothes. By 2:45 I was throwing away stacks of things I meant to mail to people, entrusting them
to the other postal system. Soon I realized this was more than a mere physical cleansing of my dwelling space; it had become something primal, something that had to be done.


If You're Not Careful

You can take fruit that is about to

go rotten and freeze it to make

smoothies, or mash it up to make

fruit crisps or pie filling.

If all that dumpstered fruit attracts

fruit flies, you can control the

situation with carnivorous plants.


At 3:00 I started in on the home furnishings, and then the pots and pans. By 9:00 a.m. the next morning, my house was completely empty. I threw out all of my belongings as well as those of my brother, who was away for the weekend. I threw out the shelves from the refrigerator, and then dragged it onto to the street as well. The experience was simultaneously terrifying and liberating.

A few minutes later, as I lay naked and shivering on the bare floor trying to fall asleep, I looked out the window and saw my friend Jason digging through our trash, my old sneakers in one hand and the thrill of discovery on his face.

Wonderful and thorough! All except the notes about cutting locks and lighting trash compactors ablaze.

I saw a comment earlier on about how refuse could actually be considered as stolen. Taking materials out of a locked dumpster (that you circumvented) is theft. The person or company took reasonable measures to protect their trash can, and the practice of cutting locks could end up landing you in far greater trouble if caught. Suppose the dumpster you broke into contained sensitive documents, and the owner claims some is missing. Plausible deniability becomes much more difficult when you are toting around a pair of bolt cutters. Be smart and respectful. If the dumpster is locked, move on. Plenty of others that are left unsecured.

Thanks to everyone who repurposes rather than recycles!


8 years ago

my dumpster comes once a year and i rarely get to dive in but i found tons of good stuff like a mint condition DS LITE and $400 of games and accessories as well as a brand new ORIGINAL gameboy

 I tried to build a go-cart when I was six or seven with my sister (8 or9) and my neighbor (7 or 8). so, we didn't have a lot of resources. We tried to get a motor from a fan, and we saw a tri-wheeled stroller with a free sign on it. My sister ran across the street to get it, when 2 other neighborhood kids came out of nowhere, knocked my sister down, and got the stroller. We knew the kids, and one of them we had considered our friend, the other just hung around the neighborhood and was older than most of us. They didn't even use it for anything besides going down a hill, and they knew we were trying to build a go-cart.

  why has this song started playing in my head now?   LOL 


Wow,  haven't heard THAT one for eons...thanks for the memories :-) 

 I used to have them on cassette.  Damn I miss those cassettes.

I do also, to some extent.....but then I had a bunch of "quality" cassettes with Vivaldi, Pachelbel, Tchaikovsky, and many others on them, and almost ALL of them started to squeal and whine after about a year's worth of playing....really burnt me up that they weren't the High Quality I paid for... 

 I used to love that song!  I also loved itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polkadot bikini!

Yeah, but I can still drive my wife a little berserk by singing (repeatedly) "their coming to take me away Ha! Ha!"

I relate better to that...really I do
Deek D

8 years ago

Anyone ever read the dumpster diving book/novel "Evasion"? Definitely an interesting, albeit preachy (views) at times, read....

crimethinc, i believe is the indie press that released it.


Where I live dumpster-divers are known as "skip-rats" (answers below I know) L

*sigh* in my area, they can be arrested as thieves *shrug*

One wouldn't die, but they may be fined (and therefor pay more for it then New retail) :-) 

ok let me rephrase that "I would sooner run from the police than surender my trash!

. I've heard of such laws but have never heard the reasoning behind them. How can one steal garbage (as long as the garbage is not on private property)? Can you provide any insight or do I need to hit Google? . Don't tell the cops, but, last week, I snagged a small satellite TV dish with LNA/LNB/whatever-those-little-boxes-are off the curb the day before collection. :P

In SOME cases (and to distinguish between cases would require thinking human beings, not the police) the trash is paid Extra for, to be hauled away.  They have tags on large items like tv's etc. So, they figure (I think) that since it is ALL paid for as far as hauling it away, one is stealing from "that"....since, had they known you were going to take all the radios and that computer, they could have put more out at the same price.....IDK.  

I don't know why it would be illegal- something like "it's the property of the city," but around here, if you're digging through the dumpster, police don't care. I've even dug through the trash at the police station and not had any trouble.

If it's on the curb side, it's generally considered abandoned property (this comes about because of several court cases where police have taken peoples garbage for investigative processes), however a dumpster is private property, entering private property without permission is a crime.

"A man works hard for his trash" theft is theft... L

Is it just me, or are skips here full of plaster, wood, empty buckets and the star?
I've yet to find something to dive for. :|

There's much better stuff then that to be found in skips - maybe someone else beat you to it? L

I've already read the one for small world or whatever
You never listen cam.