Tag Archives: dumpster diving

Dumpster Diving Tips

The other day I happened to be exploring in a messy Center City alley when I found my favorite dumpster a complete mess.  There were opened trash bags all over the place, and some people loudly walking away with a bunch of stuff.

I feel like a cranky old fart… this is the kind of behavior that causes businesses to replace dumpsters with compactors, and add chains and barbed-wire fences to protect their so-called waste.  Manners really go a long way here.

It’s been a long time since I’ve gone over the rules of dumpster diving…I think it’s time to review:

1) If you remove stuff from the dumpster, put it back when you’re done.  Leave the area cleaner than you found it- don’t be a jerk.

2) Don’t go through dumpsters during business hours unless you’re being extremely discreet.

3) If an employee sees you digging and asks you to leave, do it.  Apologize and come back another time.

4) Assume that what you’re doing is illegal, even if you’re sure it isn’t.  Is it private property?  Is it trespassing?  Is it theft?  Probably not, but it isn’t a debate I feel like having with a pissed off employee or police officer- get in and get out fast!

5) If you find personal information, which you most likely will, deface it.  Give them a pass and hopefully they’ll learn to protect their privacy soon.

6) Only take what you need.


Quick tips:

1) If you’re working from inside the dumpster, which I recommend, wear a headlamp.  Nothing is more annoying than having a flashlight in your mouth.  Gloves go a long way, too.

2) Go with a buddy.  Having a lookout comes in handy, especially if you’re both inside the dumpster.  Nothing is more annoying than having a bag of trash dumped on you.

3) If it’s a high profile mission, hang around the area in advance without actually digging.  Are there cameras?  Security vehicles?  Do employees come outside to have a smoke every ten minutes?  Timing is key.

Obviously I don’t have all the answers, but following these simple guidelines will ensure you don’t run into any issues and walk away with stuff that would have otherwise hit the landfill.  Good luck!

The Dark Side of Trash Picking

What your paper recycling should look like.

Not so long ago, I heard a hard knock on my door.

I open the door, and some dude is trying to look official and not pulling it off, even with the clipboard in his arm.  He looked kinda nervous, and for a second I even wonder if I scared him.  Maybe he realized I knew his game before he played.

“Mr. Weaver, it looks like you owe the water department money.  I’m from the Philadelphia Water Department, and I need to collect $198.50 from you…”

Of any bills I have to pay each month, an autopaid water bill of twenty odd dollars a month isn’t going to get missed.  Then I laughed to myself and thought, I wonder if that’s why I get those ugly blue envelopes each month although I’ve had auto pay and opted to go paperless nearly 5 years.

I asked the guy for some identification, and he flashed me something, but it definitely wasn’t an ID.  I think it was a Rite Aid card or something.  He didn’t have a bill of mine either…and that’s because I shred them.

I laughed pleasantly at the guy on my porch and said “From one trash picker to another, I respect the game, but you gotta leave.”

He was about to reply, then just turned around and hurriedly walked down the block.

Is this situation familiar to you?  I’ve had a few people tell me in recent months that they’ve had false bill collectors showing up at the door demanding money.  That’s a shame that somewhere out there people have coughed it up to these jerks.

Then I thought about how I go through waste, and how much I like hovering over blue bins on Sunday in my neighborhood just to see what my neighbors think is recycling, or if I think I can spot a disposal error due to a drunkard putting their 40 ounce on top of the garbage (Philly trash fines for another article!).

One thing I see somewhat often in the blue bin is shoes.  I also see a lot of wood…like broken chair legs and stuff.  Both are recyclable, but not for a curbside service, folks.  It’s funny to think that if you just threw all your waste in the blue bin, you’d probably be correct most of the time.  All we need is curbside composting here…

Anyway, I thought about how if I wanted to, I could do the same thing this crook is doing.  Most people don’t seem to shred their paperwork.  I’ve had dreams of becoming a spy for a large company and stealing the trash of their competitors.  Do you think that job exists?  Contract Garbage Spy?  I would think so…and if not, I may have quite a business model!  Ha.

Then my dumb thoughts drifted even further.  My mission is to get everyone more in touch with their waste habits…and that definitely goes hand in hand with trash picking.  What if everyone that read my stuff actually began trash picking and telling their friends about it?  What would happen to our waste?  How many would become debt collectors?  Would someone start looking through business waste?  Where does it end?

I don’t know.  But remember to shred your paper before you put it out curbside.  Or if you’re paranoid now that I’ve brought it up, shred it and put it in your compost pile/worm bin.

Scavenging At School

Scavenging at School

I was taking a stroll and I happened to pass by a school’s dumpsters.  I couldn’t help but take a look at all the opportunity that was being passed on.  Don’t you think schools should be recycling, composting and donating as opposed to trashing?  I mean, the students are the future and all… setting an example and being a steward in the community shouldn’t be an option.

Who knows, maybe I’m really ahead of myself… maybe not a single person at the school has ever thought about waste segregation.  Maybe no one at this Philadelphia school lives in Philadelphia and recognizes that they participate in single stream recycling at home already.

Are the schools near you recycling? Composting? Donating excess supplies and lost and found never found? Are they getting the students involved?

I wonder what the waste hauler thought…maybe they never proposed providing the service anyway.  Either way, this isn’t about blame as much as it’s about looking through trash and asking questions…so take my lead and go do it.