We find treasures even in the unlikeliest places, including the dumpster. This much is true: people throw away perfectly good stuff into the trash bin (along with the bad ones, that is), and if you have the guts to dumpster dive, you might just as well score stuff that you can eat, use or give away to others. And if you have the eye for scoring really good finds, you can even turn this into a profitable side hustle.
Thanks to social media, especially TikTok, more and more people have begun to understand what dumpster diving is and how it can help them.
Sure, it is messy and risky, but we must understand where they come from. It might appeal to you, too, especially if you want to save money by salvaging stuff that people throw away. And if you’re into it, you must also know where are the best places to dumpster dive.
What is Dumpster Diving?
Dumpster diving is the process of scavenging in a dumpster to find useful stuff, including food, clothes, furniture, electronics, and more. Some stores may discard stuff that can still be eaten or used or maybe otherwise donated to people in need. Some people also go through other people’s trash to find something that they can profit from.
Dumpster diving is fun because you acquire new things without spending any money. And if you take it seriously, it could also become a profitable side hustle!
Why Do People Dumpster-Dive?
Going through dumpsters is not exactly the best thing to spend idle time, but divers have their reasons.
One of the biggest reasons divers go through trash bins to find something useful is that it helps them save money, especially on food. But some divers find it enjoyable, and even give them the opportunity to help others.
Save Money on Food
Did you know that around one-third of food remains unconsumed? Food waste in the US is such a shame, knowing that inflation is driving food costs higher and many people are struggling to put food on the table. So some of the divers figured that scavenging for still edible food products in the trash bins would feed their tummies and reduce food waste.
To Generate Extra Income
Dumpster diving may be a gross and messy affair, but it isn’t too dirty if it generates extra income. If you master the art of dumpster diving, you can score amazing finds that bring in tons of money.
This mom from Texas, for instance, goes dumpster diving as a hobby. Amazingly, she has already made $11,000 by selling the items she found from her dives.
Meanwhile, this mom from Chicago now considers dumpster diving a full-time job after finding the very first issue of Rolling Stone magazine with John Lennon on the cover. When she learned that the magazine fetches a good amount of money, she decided to make it her full-time job. She sells some of her finds for a profit on eBay while she donates other stuff to shelters and organizations.
To Help Others in Need
Apart from making money by selling the stuff they find, some dumpster divers also donate their treasures to others in an effort to help the less fortunate.
Ella Rose, for example, is a dumpster diver and runs a dedicated channel on YouTube called GlamourDDive. She’s been able to score expensive products and makeup during her dives. She goes to the best places to dumpster dive as retail stores, where she finds lots of products still in their original packaging or still looking brand new. There were name-brand kids’ clothes and toys, bed sheets, mattresses, curtains, art supplies, and many others. She decided to donate her finds to people who need them.
Is Dumpster Diving Illegal?
To say that dumpster diving is legal or illegal is a little tricky to answer.
According to LegalMatch, dumpster diving is legal in all 50 states. When the trash is placed in a public area, say on the curb of a street, then it is legal for anyone can forage through the trash bins.
However, scavenging through them is illegal if the trash bins are still on private property. You may be charged with theft and trespassing. And if you happen to get confidential information in one of your dives and use that information illegally (such as for identity theft), then the local laws apply as well.
So the safest places to dumpster dive are places that are considered public domain. Do not dumpster dive in fenced areas, private property, or other areas where it says “no trespassing.”
Is Dumpster Diving for You?
Chances are, dumpster diving is legal where you’re (but still check with the local laws). You could go from one grocery store or search the garbage in a nearby retail store where you’re hoping to find useful brand-new stuff.
But before you do that, you have to check your expectations, so you don’t end up frustrated with dumpster diving.
First, expect to get dirty. After all, you are searching the garbage, so it’s likely that you’ll find all sorts of dirty things there. It probably isn’t for you if you don’t have the guts or go through other people’s trash.
Second, people may look weirdly at you, even apprehend you. While dumpster diving has become more popular thanks to social media, other people still frown upon it. They might think that it’s dirty and gross.
Finally, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find something. One night you might find a bounty of treasures, but the next night you find nothing. The truth is, dumpster diving is taking a chance on someone else’s garbage, and there will never be any guarantee that you’ll find something worth taking.
Dumpster Diving Tips: How to Make the Most of Your Dumpster Diving Trips
Whether you want to dumpster dive for food or find stuff that you can make money from, it’s best to know what to expect during these hunts and how to make the most of them. Here are the top dumpster diving tips that you must keep in mind.
- Dress appropriately. Try to cover your body as much as possible to lessen exposure to germs, bacteria, and hazardous waste. Wear gloves to protect your hands from sharp edges like broken glass. Wear boots if you’re going to get into the dumpster. Leave your valuables behind; otherwise, you might lose them while foraging through the receptacles.
- Know your goal. If you are looking for food, check out the dumpsters near restaurants, grocery stores, and supermarkets. If you want to find something of value that you can re-sell later on, you might find them in dumpsters around apartment complexes. The best places to dumpster dive are those places that match your goals. You’re likely to find what you’re looking for if you go to the right place.
- Learn the trash pickup schedule. You want to get to the dumpsters before the garbage collectors empty out the receptacles.
- Do not take suspicious items, especially when it comes to food. Some people throw away perfectly good food, which is quite a waste. You can take those if they are still a couple of days away from the expiration date. Also, prioritize packaged and canned food since they’re less likely to be contaminated. If you see molds or smell something foul, leave it.
- Take a friend, if possible. Having someone to watch out for you lets you dumpster diving and dive more comfortably and confidently. Plus, you get an extra hand should you find larger items.
- Sanitize your finds before using them. Non-electronics can be rinsed with water and dish soap, while electronics can be cleaned with a cloth and alcohol.
- Take a shower. You have been through some mess, and some of the germs and hazardous waste may have clung to your clothes and body. Use an anti-bacterial soap and shower with hot water to get rid of them.
What are the Best Places to Dumpster Dive?
You can dumpster dive in a couple of different places, but if you want to score useful, valuable items, you must narrow your options down to these best places to dumpster dive.
1. Rich Neighborhoods
If you want to go dumpster diving and score really cool, valuable finds, you must look into the trash bins around rich neighborhoods. Rich people’s trash often contains valuable items. They’re also more likely to discard larger items when they upgrade furniture, electronics, and other stuff. Their trash cans are often teeming with items you can still use or even sell for a profit.
One caveat when dumpster diving in rich neighborhood’s dumpsters is to know their trash day pickup so you can get there before the trash gets collected. Also, most rich people discard good items when they are spring cleaning or while preparing to move, so it’s best to explore these places regularly.
2. Apartment Complexes
Apartment complexes are also some of the best places to dumpster dive. The main advantage of dumpster diving in apartment complexes is that residents place their trash in just one area, making it even easier for you to go through their discarded stuff.
Dumpster divers also explore trash cans in apartment complexes at the beginning or end of each month. This is when some residents relocate, and they just dump whatever stuff they can’t bring along with them. Hit up the dumpsters in apartment complexes around this time, and you’ll probably score some interesting stuff, such as furniture, home decor, and other things people want to get rid of.
3. Retail Stores
Retail stores are also great places to go dumpster diving. Some retail stores like Target, and Walmart, frequently deal with returned items. While most of these can still be sold, most owners would dump those products into store dumpsters if there are broken parts or if the packaging has been ruined. Retail stores would rather discard them than send them back to suppliers.
There are plenty of things you can potentially find in retail store dumpsters. Some of them may be slightly ruined, but they can still be touched up and fixed. Others are still in great condition, so you can still use them yourself, sell or give them to others. The best stores you can go dumpster diving are Ulta, T.J. MaxxBath And Body Works, and Ulta.
4. Construction Sites
Construction sites are also one of the best places to dumpster dive. You can go dumpster diving if you’re looking to score bits and pieces of home improvement materials, such as wood and scrap metal, as well as old fixtures like door handles and cabinetry. Some construction sites also throw away useful products like cans of paint.
Apart from construction sites, you can also dumpster dive at home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot. They might have thrown away some good stuff that you can use in your project. Finding these kinds of stuff can help you save money on your own construction project.
5. Grocery Stores
Grocery stores are some of the best places to dumpster dive. Many grocery stores throw away perfectly edible food into dumpsters and receptacles, and most dumpster divers know that some store owners throw away food near their expiration dates. You can still salvage those items, especially if they are still secured in their packaging. However, don’t be tempted to take opened food products, meat, milk, and others that look and smell spoilt, as they’re likely to have been infested with bacteria and are unsafe to consume.
6. Thrift Stores
If you’re looking for discarded clothing, shoes, bags, and toys, then dumpster diving at thrift stores is a great idea. Some thrift stores receive too many clothing donations and other stuff, and some get thrown away into dumpsters.
Also, some people meant to donate large items like old furniture. While this is done in good faith, some thrift stores are just unable to sell them or don’t have the space to hold them, so these things often end up in dumpsters, too.
You can also go dumpster diving in bakeries, where you can find day-old pieces of bread, muffins, and other pastries. Some bakeries discard these at closing time, so it’s a great chance to score some free snacks.
Timing is the most important thing to remember when you’re in bakeries. Knowing when they close is good, so you can be there immediately and get the goods before they go bad. Fortunately, most owners or bakery staff would put the baked goodies in a separate plastic, so they’re most likely to be edible if you could get them out right away.
8. College Campuses
You probably did not expect this, but college campuses and dorms are one of the best places for dumpster diving. Most college students would throw away their stuff because they no longer need it the next semester, or it’s a pain for them to take those back home.
You want to dumpster dive at universities and campuses at the end of each semester. By this time, students are raring to get rid of some of their furniture and books. Books, by the way, can be sold for a profit, so you can potentially make money from those.
9. Electronics stores
And don’t forget the electronics stores like Best Buy, as these are also a gold mine for avid divers.
Electronics stores may throw away returned items that have been damaged or have been used as demo products (so some of them could still work!). You could potentially find Bluetooth speakers, cables, and all sorts of hardware. Since electronics evolve rapidly, older models inevitably get tossed out.
If you find something that’s damaged, you can still salvage them, take out the scrap metal and sell it.
Many people find dumpster diving fun and profitable, while others are not exactly enticed by the idea. If you want to try dumpster diving, look up these best places to dive, and always stay away from private property if you don’t want to get in trouble with the law. Remember, dumpster diving is legal in most places, but trespassing, loitering, and theft are not.
Most successful dumpster divers have strategies for success. They are dressed up and geared up for the occasion; they know the best time and day to go dumpster diving, the route to take, and how to respond should get questioned. With these in mind, plus patience and determination, you’ll likely score treasures while dumpster diving. All the best of luck!