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While some people spend the early morning hours asleep, partying, or getting ready for work, other people around the world pursue a slightly less conventional activity: digging through trash.
Why, you might ask, would someone enthusiastically subject themselves to the often disgusting sights and smells on the inside of a dumpster or in the middle of a trash heap? Turns out, these intrepid dumpster divers are on to something. Read on to learn what dumpster diving is all about and how you can take advantage of the wonderful treasure that is other people’s trash.
What Is Dumpster Diving?
At its simplest, dumpster diving is the act of recovering discarded items that are still useable or hold some kind of value. Also known as urban foraging, track picking, scavenging, salvaging, or curb crawling, dumpster diving targets discarded goods from retailers, schools, homes, businesses, construction sites, or anywhere that useable products are thrown away.
Anyone can dumpster dive, though the practice is often tied to freeganism—a movement where people seek to shrink their ecological footprint, reduce society’s collective waste, and inspire more sustainable models of living. The freegan lifestyle is a response to the tremendous amounts of waste generated by current models of production and consumption.
Take, for example, food waste. One-third of all the food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted—that’s around 1.3 billion tons of wasted food per year, or enough to feed the nearly 1 billion people worldwide who go hungry. Of course, wasted food also equals wasted money and labor, and the useless consumption of land and water resources.
These same principles apply to virtually any wasted product. Waste is a sign that resources are being used inappropriately and that vital needs aren’t being met for large numbers of people. Since a major reason for dumpster diving is to combat these injustices, the movement could arguably be called revolutionary.
Not only that, but it’s a great way to have some fun and save some money. Divers can walk away from a dive with plenty of usable items, from clothing and furniture to computers, appliances, books, DVDs, office supplies, lamps, tools, construction materials, toys, and, yes, food. Furnishing a new apartment for free or nearly free? Yes, please!
There’s an art to dumpster diving that only comes with experience. But with some simple dos and don’ts—and a little bit of practice—you’ll be well on your way to becoming a dumpster diving pro.
The Bottom Line
Dumpster diving can be an economical way to cut down on waste, reduce your eco-footprint, and add a little adventure into your life. By practicing the dos and don’ts above and utilizing common sense, you’ll be well equipped to uncover some trash turned treasure. Happy hunting!
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