Dumpster Diving

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Post by pooablo »

I went dumpster diving for the first time yesterday at a local organic food store. It's incredible what you can find in a garbage bin: zucchini, eggplant, potatoes, dill, collard, etc. I am definitely doing this more often. I can't believe that I have never tried it before.
Any other dumpster divers out there?

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Post by murpheyw »

My last dive (2 months or so ago) was behind a Blockbuster video store. I found 5 music CD's (various artists) and several new folders.
Before that, We needed some scrap drywall to fix a patch in the home drywall. My brother and law and I took a drive to a new single family home construction site. We found plenty of drywall leftovers in a dumpster that meet our needs and found a few nice sized 2X4's to boot. We also found a very large wet dry vac that works like a champ.
Fun stuff.

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Post by AnneBentham »

I'm a dumpster diver! It's amazing how much great stuff gets tossed out. Like bags containing 9 perfect oranges and 1 with a bruise.
There's a book called The Art & Science of Dumpster Diving by John Hoffman that you might enjoy. It's funny and surprisingly helpful.
Also, here's a thread about a dumpster diving documentary.


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Post by Rex »

Not quite dumpster diving, but my parents and I were planning on finding a large piece of Styrofoam to place under our dog's electric heating blanket for winter (he's about ten now; very rarely does he come into the house, primarily only during thunder storms, and even then, sometimes we have to literally drag him indoors, which isn't easy since he's close to one hundred pounds).
We'd been putting it off since we can sometimes come across a piece at Walmart or another store (my father works for a part time contractual company, doing stock inventory on the sales floor or updating endcaps and the like... the amount of waste we see during his jobs has put me off of retail in general. Alas, I digress.) During our procrastination of procuring the Styrofoam, however, my father noticed something in the grass by the local Home Depot while we were driving somewhere; he pulled into the parking lot to see what it was, discovered it was a Styrofoam-like padding material, and put it into the van.
It's now sandwiched between the concrete of the car port and the electric blanket; it turns out the mat was a perfect size, which helps, but further helps because it not only saved us a couple dollars (negligible, but money nonetheless - yay free swag), but because it also didn't end up in a garbage hole, unused.

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Post by FrugalZen »

For others thinking about something like this...try going by a carpet store...the old padding they tear out when they replace wall to wall would work just as well...just cut to size.

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Post by pooablo »

I started checking out some of the other grocery store dumpsters near my house but sadly they are sealed compacting bins. Sigh . . . so much food goes to waste!
I will be checking out the dumpster for the local food bank because apparently even the food bank has to throw out good food if it doesn't meet health regulations!
I think next year I will also start to garden and glean to supplement my dumpster diving hobby. I wouldn't have believed how easy it is to get food for free!
@Anne Thanks for sharing the documentary link. I watched it and really enjoyed it! I couldn't find Hoffman's first book at my library but I was able to pick up his sequel.
@Rex It's incredible what problems you can solve by using some ingenuity, creativity and patience!

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Post by mrmarkus21 »

I've been in many dumpsters, diving for treasure and food. I find it very practical, but very inappropriate for our society. I found that the best time are the hours that transition from dark to daylight. Reason being is that it sometimes that can make you even more conspicuous if there is a light shining over the dumpster.
Unfortunately, Minneapolis co-ops and other natural food stores lock up their dumpsters, so i dive at less fancy stores for non-organic fruits and veggies and end up putting them in my dehydrator. It's a great way to get plenty of fruit that otherwise would cost hundreds (at least for the amount one can get if they know where to go and how to do it).
Anyone out there doing this in the midwest? October/Nov/December is great for diving because it preserves the food if you can get it before things start to freeze.

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Post by Emanuel »

I'm also a DD. Having hard time finding something useful or even food. Wood on the other hand is plentiful so next week I'm going to try some charcoal production.
I'm slowly expanding my coverage area. Early this week I scouted the closest city and to my surprise the streets are full of trash.. ! I just need to be persistence I guess..

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Post by HSpencer »

Great thread!! OK I was driving by Fiesta Square where the Hastings Book and Music store is located. I saw, and my wife saw a couple employees out at the trash bin opening "something" (wife thought it was CD or DVD covers), and destroying the contents into the dumpster. We took another pass and they were then chucking books or something looking like books into the dumpster. Not stopping, I could not really say if they were destroying the products or not. Several questions rise up here. Since it looked like they were destroying, and throwing away the items, would it not be more humanistic to give them to a charity or something, or a school or whatever? Is destruction of slow selling or outdated music or books ever a good idea? Is this a wasteful idea or what?

Wife and I made two drive bys and then left, discussing what we saw. For a couple of frugal bugles like us, it was pretty disconcerting to say the least!

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Post by tac »

I used to do it quite a bit. Now I live in an area where most of the dumpsters are locked away and getting to them does really start to feel like you are breaking in. Also, as was pointed out upthread, the best times to dumpster dive can be inconvenient if you also have a day job :( I'm still always on the lookout for good "finds", but it's not something I'm dedicated to anymore. I do still know a lot of the local edible plants and so I get a lot of food through gleaning.

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Post by pooablo »

@tac With respect to gleaning, we also have a group called Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton in my city. Volunteers go to people's gardens and help pick their fruit: 1/4 goes to the local food bank, 1/4 goes to the volunteers, 1/4 goes to the owner, and 1/4 goes to the organization for preserving and canning workshops. You may want to see if you have something like that in your area. It's a good way to meet people, save food, and help your neighbours and the needy!
@HSpencer I couldn't agree more about the inhumane ways businesses destroy perfectly usable items. I wish there were a better way to tax waste so that companies would not needlessly destroy their products and would have an incentive to donate them to charities instead. One can only hope -- in the meantime, happy dumpster diving!

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Post by Nick50 »

I have to admit I have dumpster dived before. I found all kind of great stuff in dumpsters like wood, headphones, radios, all kind of stuff. Every once in a while you can find some pretty neat stuff.

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Post by Ego »

Groceries were over-budget this month and last. I've decided to take a look behind Whole Foods and Trader Joe's after watched this video.
Anyone else dive regularly?

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Post by Ralphy »

A buddy and I just did our first dumpster dive (for food, anyway) last week. Scored some peaches in sealed glass jars (possibly re-usable for canning?) and some cookies. He went back tonight and came away with a lot of grapes and bread. Both dives were at Aldi, where a lot of the produce they sell is sealed in plastic wrap.

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Post by MountainMan »

Been diving for nearly 3 years now, I go once a week and get 70%+ of my food from the dumpster (could be more, but I like my veggies fresh). Highlights include whole wheels of cheese, kilos of fancy chocolate, wine and belgian beer, but fortunately for my health those are not regular occurances!

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Post by m741 »

Man, I love the Perennial Plate (the vimeo channel)! Great stuff if you like food.

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Post by Ego »

Mountainman, that is one of my concerns. When I shop in the store - as opposed to digging through their dumpster - I look through the aisles and realize that there is very little outside of the fresh fruits/veggies and maybe some select frozen food items, that I want to eat. But I am so frugal... if I see a wheel of cheese or boxes of free cookies...
Years ago I would dive daily in the condo complex where we lived. It was a large complex with seven or eight trash areas with recycle bins. I would mostly keep myself to the bins looking for the Sunday papers with the coupon sections. 20 coupons for progresso soup.... that kind of thing. We would eat whatever was free and were somewhat insulated by youth. But the poor eating habits caught up with us.
If I have any luck this time around, I will have to exercise restraint.
M741, That's the first one I've seen. I will have to watch others.
Ralphy, I was hoping for the plastic bins full of spinach and other fancy greens. We'll see what pops up. Going over today.

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Post by Seneca »

I've never dumpster dove for food, but I have many times for outfitting my garage/workshop or home office. I'd jump right in in my biz casual work "uniform". I used to catch hell from colleagues until they started paying attention to what I was getting or they'd visit the house and I'd point out salvaged stuff in my garage. Funny enough, their egos still kept them out.
This is actually a bit of a competitive form of diving, there are salvage dealers who make their livings in part by doing this.
Watch out for critters, I once woke up an engorged sleeping raccoon!

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Post by Ego »

Trader Joes and Whole Foods have both done a good job hiding the fact that they produce trash at all. Both have enclosed their dumpsters in unassailable yet highly decorative cages. Hum.

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Post by Ralphy »

I'm still new to diving, but a friend and I have been out diving once a week or so lately. We've been pretty surprised how much we can round up in a quick outing. A recent trip turned up this pile -

Lots of junk food in there that's about to hit its 'sell by' date, but we've found a lot of bagged produce, too (you just have to sort out the bad/rotting pieces when you get home). Have recently seen/gathered plenty of strawberries, potatoes, oranges, apples, and cucumbers.
Diving has synched up well with late-night pizza delivery. That way I'm already out driving (no extra car trip), the target store is closed, it's dark out, street traffic is minimal, etc.
Maybe in a couple months, once the garden gets going, I'll challenge myself to a month of subsiding on garden produce and grocery store excess :)

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