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Dumpster Diving: Yay or Nay?

November 3rd, 2006 at 01:30 am

Wow, after the response from my last posting (in case you missed it, I was questioning whether I could still use my student ID to get discounts) it seems there are many strong opinions out there about the ethics of frugality! Just to perpetuate the fun, and hopefully open the floor to some good discussion, I thought I'd throw a new topic out. So, the topic for today is dumpster diving.

Personally, I am conservative about this and would only pick up someone elses' "trash" if it happened to be something I really needed; for example, someone in my old apartment complex threw out some nice woven baskets and I took them, cleaned them a bit, and used to for storage and even as gift packaging. But that's about as far as I'd go. In other words, if it's out on the curb, and no one is around AND it is something I will use, then I'll (timidly) take it.

I have read stories of some peoples' amazing dumpster finds- expensive, working computer and computer parts as well as electronics found in the dumpsters of those well known electronic giant superstores, for example. Incredible....and a bit worrisome, in my mind. Again, if the person needed to fix their computer, or their friends, and they found the working part in the dumpster, then I am less conflicted about it. But if they are just grabbing this stuff and reselling it to make a profit....eh....ok, I sort of see it as an act of "revenge," sort of "sticking it to the man" (or in this case, electronics store) and beating them at their own game. Still....

What I find intolerable is when dumpster divers take advantage of the situation. There are certain people who scour yard sales and the like with only the intent of reselling things for profit. On one forum, I was angered when one woman bragged about returning to people's yard sales when they were over, offering to buy up all their unsold clothing for a ridiculously low price (like $1) and then going straight to ebay or a thrift store to make a profit. Smart, some people will say. I say, sordid. What about donating that bag of clothing to the homeless or battered women's shelter? What if the family holding the garage sale needed that cash to pay some debts or bills?

Every dumpster diver has their own story and situation. I'd be interested to know what other people think.

16 Responses to “Dumpster Diving: Yay or Nay?”

  1. Lez Save $ Says:

    Well, in Tokyo there is actually a 'dumpster day'. I personally have never picked up another's trash, but I might in the future. One thing I've learned is never say never!

    Japanese housing tends to be small and over stuffed. A lot of people throw away completely good items with some of them in mint condition! So once a month you can go out on 'large-item-garbage-collection' day and take home an usable microwave, etc.

    It is actually quite popular here, though, Japanese people tend to be rather timid overall, so it is best to sneak to your neighbor's yard early the the morning.

    As for profits? I have no idea what people do with the items afterwards. So I really can't say anything. I have yet to experience the whole dumpster phenomenon myself, so I'll let you know if I eventually get around to it. hehehe

    Have a good day!

  2. Thrifty Ray Says:

    I guess I can understand how some would find dumpster diving an honest hobby or a way to find good 'deals'. But I would be very uncomfortable if I saw someone going through my trash. If I wanted to donate it to a cause, I would. In turn, Ive never gone through anyone elses trash---WITH THE EXCETION of looking behind a store for empty boxes when I was moving---many, many years ago.

    My vote would be thumbs down on this one. (oh boy, I hope Im not in for a public flogging now!!) Wink

  3. tinapbeana Says:

    not going to flog you, but at the same time i believe in keeping as much out of a landfill as humanly and cleanly possible. i used to live right on the edge of a very wealthey historic district and these people threw out fabulous things. on the curb, on trash day, no mistaking this was something they didn't want. and yes, if they've already commited to not wanting it, i consider it fair game. on a slight side note, the police follow this same philosophy, which is why they can go through your trash, it's public property once it's put out. i am part of the public.

    i driven by while a man was cleaning his garage and piling stuff at the curb. i asked if he minded if i looked everything over cause there were tools and luggage and lamps and whatnot. he very happily agreed b/c he wasnted as small a pile as possible for the trash guys! in the end we did sell some of the tools i pulled from that pile, but that wasn't the intent when i went digging. we just later needed the money more than a rotary sander (yes, the man was throwing away a perfectly good sander).

    the college i went to was full of some rather well off people as well, and when it came time to move out they would pile clothes and furnishings outside their doors, pack up and head out of state. i was working 3 jobs and going to school full-time: you're darn right i dug through those piles!

    granted, i have never actually 'dove' into a dumpster, and don't think i will. but i firmly believe someones trash can be someone elses treasure. as for the lady offering a $1 for a bag of clothes: the folks selling them had the option of turning her down and donating the items to charity themselves. instead, they chose to accept a dollar.

    sorry, end of my rant *sheepishly grins*

  4. Broken Arrow Says:

    oh boy, I hope Im not in for a public flogging now!!

    Depends on whether you like it rough? Big Grin Sorry, couldn't resist.

    I actually don't have any moral objections to this. While I would rather not have someone rummage through my trash, as far as I know, the act itself isn't illegal. Better yet, when I was clearing out our old house for sale, a neighbor stopped by and politely asked if they could have some of the stuff I was planning to throw out. In short, she helped me cleaned the house, which was just fine by me.

    Of course, offering it to charity is better, but using these methods to make a dollar seemed fair enough to me. I mean, I suppose one could argue that if we wanted these things to go to charity, we should just donate it ourselves, rather than throw it out?

    Well, that's my personal opinion of it anyway. I think the most important thing here is to communicate and ask the people you are planning to rummage through first, to see if they are OK with that?

    Oh, and let me just add that, as a rule, I do not dumpster dive. I'm not above it, but I also prefer to live as clutter-free as possible.

  5. LuckyRobin Says:

    I'd be afraid of rats and/or needles. I find freecycle a much safer alternative, anyway. I've gotten everything I've asked for but one thing from there and at least I know its from a reputable source.

  6. Thrifty Ray Says:

    I guess I should add that we use it till it dies here....I donate what isnt dead that we dont need or use...and I always have 3 grown kids who are more than happy to be recipients as they are outfitting their own homes now. So in other words...my trash is....well, trash.

    Off to the gallows...to await my cyber noose.

  7. LuckyRobin Says:

    Okay, I guess I'm talking about actual dumpster diving and the rest of you all are talking about trash picking. Trash picking is a whole other ball game. People put stuff out by the curb, that's different.

  8. Thrifty Ray Says:

    LR- I was thinking trash picking rather than dumpster diving---I think the only dumpsters we have around here are for businesses and usually those are behind gates.

  9. tinapbeana Says:

    LR, i totally agree w/ you about freecycle and i just wish more people would use it. our list gets so many more 'wants' than 'offers', and a lot of folks see it as a one way street.

  10. sarah Says:

    I see nothing wrong with either trash picking or dumpster diving. One of the big sins of this society is the waste. Anything that recycles whether for profit or not I am usually in favor of.

  11. baselle Says:

    If you toss it out, it means you don't want it anymore. I'm fine with either trash picking or dumpster diving, and I've gotten a couple of items that way. As long as the picker isn't trespassing, or breaking the law, and understands the concept of food poisoning (in the case of the grocery dumpster), its a free country. The only other issue is privacy - you can tell a fair amount about a person or a neighborhood by what they toss.

  12. tinapbeana Says:

    and that is why everyone should invest in a shredder or a fire bin!

  13. koppur Says:

    I dumpster dive but only rarely. If I see something I like that is sitting on the sidewalk with a pile of trash, I'll pop on over and check it out. But I don't actually DIVE in there...I don't undo trash bags or dig through the stuff...if it's on top or in plain sight, yes, otherwise nope. As for the woman who bought the clothes at the yard sales, I look at it like this. 1. The people originally selling the clothes dont have to sell them to her for $1. That's their choice and there's no harm in asking. 2. If the family needed the money very badly, they can say no, or even put them online themselves. Again, they don't HAVE to say yes. 3. If she's smart enough and brave enough to do it, all the more power to her.

  14. jersey jen Says:

    hehe, i guess when it comes to finding treasures, there are no rules!

    personally, i have taken advantage of various "moving sale" and "garage sale" of acquaintances. i have found rarely used and near-perfect items for 80 to 90% off. it's a win-win, since the sellers get rid of stuff and i get things i need. however, back in the college days, we actually went to empty dorms to collect things people left behind...

  15. jersey jen Says:

    also, i just want to thank you for stopping by my blog! it's wonderful to have another jersey girl around. i'm in northern jersey (near the g. w. bridge) area. and you?

  16. drew1980 Says:

    I'm in favor of dumpster diving. I live in Boston and we have garbage pick-up 3 times a week and recycling once a week. People are always going through unattended garbage bags. Also, in the summer when people are moving in/out, there are tons of great things up for grabs.

    In the past, I've picked up 3-ring binders, bestselling novels, baskets and lawn furniture. Of course, I would never pick through a closed garbage bag - these were all items left out in cardboard boxes marked 'free.'

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