Ewww! You might think. Dumpster diving? Climbing into a big box full of people’s trash is not for everyone, but that’s not what dumpster divers really do anyway. By using some common sense and keeping your wits about you, you’ll find used but useful items, some of which may even be valuable. It's an environmentally sustainable practice that saves money and reduces landfill waste. Here are some tips for embarking on your treasure hunt:
Getting Over the “Ick” Factor
Yes, it is gross to throw yourself into an oversized trashcan. That’s why dumpster divers stay outside the dumpster and use poles or other retrieval instruments to pick through the dumpster. But the smell is more than a little daunting. Dumpsters are filled with expired meats, fruits, and vegetables, along with your neighbor’s children’s dirty diapers.
But just like with farm animals, babies and grandmas, you get used to the odor. After a while you won’t mind at all, especially when you see all the money you’ll be saving. You’ll find free stuff to use, things you can fix and use, even things you can sell. The guy in the photo here already found a few good items.
Good Places to Search
Densely populated areas are a great place to start looking. Behind shopping centers are popular, as are apartment complexes and college campuses at the start of summer break. People are constantly moving and leaving items behind. Also, think about how many families and units share one dumpster. You will find a broad range of goodies.
Types of Things You Might Find
Many times, people throw away things that they don’t know how to fix. Electronics, computers, VCRs, televisions, and radios are all items that can be found and used to your benefit. To the untrained eye, these items are broken but to the knowledgeable diver, they are valuable. I once found a 47” TV and fixed it for under $100!
A slow running computer can be perked up with the right know-how. A radio may be still be useful, even though the prior owner is now using a new iPod. Maybe that vacuum cleaner just needs a new belt. These issues are extremely easy and cheap to fix. Re-selling them can mean a profit, or using them for your home can mean big savings.
Best Tools for Dumpster Diving
The best time to go dumpster diving is in the evening. You probably don’t want an audience watching you try to do this, and it is actually illegal in some cities. Check local ordinances before you start.
You will need to carry a flashlight and attach it to a cord and hold it by your teeth so you can use both of your hands. Some people use flashlight helmets and headbands, or you could try the HexLight, a new type of flash light that fits on your arm and lights in all the way around.
You will need a long pole so that you can lean over the edge of the bin and reach the items easily, ideally without falling in. It should have a hook on the end to grab the items. A hoe will work just as well. There are hook attachments you can buy to screw onto the end of a broom handle. This is usually the quickest and cheapest solution.
Other important tools that you will need include wet wipes and anti-bacterial soap or lotion to keep your hands clean. The vertically challenged will want to bring a stepping stool to reach over the top and inside the dumpster.
While dumpster diving can be fun, it can also be dangerous. You could fall or cut yourself on an unseen foreign object so it is always best to carry a first-aid kit, just in case. It is important to wear protective clothing.
Look on the dumpster for any label that might tell you what is inside. If it contains medical and hazardous waste, be smart and avoid it. Getting poked with a dirty needle is won’t just ruin your treasure hunt, it could ruin your health.
Dumpster diving can be profitable, if you know what you are looking for. Follow these tips, be safe, and most importantly, have fun! You never know what you will find.
Mallory Hall is a married mother of two blogging on family, financial and health topics. You find Mallory for hire at Textbroker.