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AN UN-ICKY INTRODUCTION TO DUMPSTER DIVING

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DUMPSTER DIVING ZERO WASTE

AN UN-ICKY INTRODUCTION TO DUMPSTER DIVING

An unicky introduction to dumpster diving - Green Indy Blog

I’ll start my introduction to dumpster diving with the typical shocking stats: according to a late 2016 Guardian article, “roughly 50 percent of all produce in the United States is thrown away—some 60 million tons (or $160 billion) worth of produce annually, an amount constituting “one third of all foodstuffs.” (source)

Pretty mind blowing, right?!

Zero waste is all about drastically reducing your own personal waste, but what about the waste that others make? Is there any way to help even more by taking on the burden of someone else’s trash?

In my experience, dumpster diving is a great answer to these questions.

For those who don’t know, dumpster diving is the salvaging of waste from commercial, residential, industrial and construction containers to find items that have been discarded by their owners, but that may prove useful to the picker. (Thanks, Wikipedia!)

Interested to find out more about dumpster diving and how to get into it? Let’s go!

Introduction to dumpster diving - find!
Could be trash – could be treasure!

Personal Experience

For this introduction to dumpster diving, I must say that I’m in no way a pro.

I have rummaged around in a few dumpsters in my day, almost exclusive for non-consumables. Two of my current tables are straight from the dumpster as well as several kitchen items and almost all of the plastic pots I use for flowers/compost/etc.

The best spots for items of furniture/home goods are around large apartment complexes, local second hand stores (they toss a lot of stuff they deem unsalable), or on the side of the road in nicer neighborhoods on a weekend afternoon.

On the consumable side, yes I have fished food out of a dumpster before. I tend to take packaged items as I’m always a little wary of open produce, but I have taken the odd fruit or veggie that can easily be washed off.

And before you ask, no, I do not physically get into the dumpster. I think people seriously underestimate the amount of food waste happening at grocery stores – there’s often so much that you can simply peek in and pick stuff off the top. That said, for something really good, I might hop in. (Really!)

I’ve found that Whole Foods and Kroger tend to have the best selection here in Indy. CVS and Walgreensalso tend to toss lots of packaged stuff away.

Avoid more downtown locations and/or areas of high homelessness as businesses tend to have their dumpsters more secure. Think above 50-somethingth street or below 465 on the south.

I’ve never been caught (I usually go before the store opens), but I also think getting caught would fall into the “awkward” category more than the “going to jail”.

Overall, I think my personal experience basically boils down to: yeah, it’s kind of awkward when someone walks by you rummaging through a dumpster. But… you’re the one who scored free (perfectly good) items that would otherwise be thrown into a landfill.

Introduction to dumpster diving - find!
Table found in the dumpster!

Practical Tips

As shown above, I am by no means a dumpster diving expert, but I am someone who has no compunction about rummaging around other people’s trash. So here’s what I’ve learned so far:

  • Get to know local laws. Dumpster diving is not illegal in the US, but may be restricted in your city/town. That being said, if it’s an open dumpster and someone catches you politely rifling through it, likely the worst that’s going to happen is they’ll ask you to leave. Make sure never to mess with dumpsters locked up/surrounded by a fence – that’s just asking for trouble.
  • Go during off hours. This is a pretty no duh idea, but go when there won’t be very many people around, either workers or consumers. I prefer to go early on a Sunday because I’m a morning person and I feel that it’s slightly less creepy to be going through a dumpster in early morning light rather than in total darkness. Be aware, though, you need to go early since garbage trucks often do pickups in the morning.
  • Leave the dumpster/area cleaner than when you arrived. It makes sense – the best way to have a company A) notice you’ve been there and B) lock everything up is by rifling through their trash with reckless abandon. So yes, paw through bags and take what you like, but make sure the area’s neat once you depart.
  • Dress properly. Another no-duh. While you may not be diving headfirst into a dumpster, it’s probably a good idea not to wear your Sunday best. Also, if you plan to dig a little, gloves are always a good option.
  • Don’t take more than you need. While the odds of someone else dumpster diving in your area is probably pretty low, it doesn’t pay to load up. Unless, of course, you’re sharing the wealth. Then, go ahead!

Resources

Falling Fruit: a user-edited resource that shows where “overlooked culinary bounty” may be found in cities all over the world. I particularly love Falling Fruit because it not only highlights easily accessible dumpsters, but it also points out the location of edible plants throughout the city.

Freegan.Info: freegans are people who survive on a strictly foraged diet (AKA no buying in stores!). This site is a compilation of awesome information about dumpster diving and other ways of consuming with less waste created.

r/DumpsterDiving/: while it’s mostly personal wins, the Reddit page may be useful if you have any questions about getting started.

Have you ever given dumpster diving a try? If so, what was your experience? If not, would you consider it after reading this introduction to dumpster diving?

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Bibliokleptomaniacs Dig God… and Beatniks

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Bibliokleptomaniacs Dig God… and Beatniks

Bookworms are an interesting sort. Some compulsively hoard literary nuggets until their shelves sag and creak, yet never bother to actually read their collection. Others can barely tear themselves away from the freshly-vacuumed bookstore corner in which they devour the newest Malcolm Gladwell for fear that the trip home will forever interrupt their cozy date. There are bookworms with Kindles, and bookworms juggling the four paperbacks they’re reading at once. There are bookworms who get turned on by first editions, and bookworms keen on newer, abstract renditions. There are bookworms who follow the Tao of Oprah, and others who only listen to Deepak Chopra.

But perhaps the most intriguing bookworm of all is the bibliokleptomaniac, or what we like to call the kleptobrainiac. These people are book thieves, the nerdiest outlaws this side of Hogwarts. Fascinated? Appalled? Exposed? Find out what the most shoplifted books of modern times are after the jump.

In Margo Rabb’s recent New York Times essay, we learn that only 40 percent of books that are read are paid for, and only 28 percent are purchased new. What about the rest? They’re shared, lent, given away or stealthily taken by a customer with a case of the happy hands.

Depending on who you ask, the number one shoplifted book of modern times is either The Bible or The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. After these two, (and like these two) the top 10 list is male-penned. In fact, according to store owners surveyed by Rabb, the most-nicked books share two things: fiction as a genre and a male author.

1. The Bible

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In tough times, both religion and shoplifting spike in popularity.

2. The Virgin Suicides

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A modern goth novel about suicide pacts. Another sign of the times? We hope not.

3. The works of Martin Amis

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Dubbed “The New Unpleasantness” by the New York Times, English novelist Amis rails again the excesses of modern capitalism. A comfort read?

4. The works of Charles Bukowski

Notes of a Dirty Old Man
A “laureate of American lowlife” and prolific writer, Bukowski also knew how to stick it to the man.

5. The works of William S. Burroughs
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A Harvard grad, heroin dealer, and seedy bar frequenter, Burroughs was still getting an allowance from his parents when he was in his forties.

6. The works of Raymond Carver
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Oh, just another alcoholic genius with a knack for short stories. Sensing a trend here?

7. The works of Don DeLillo

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Post-modern novelist who quit his fancy job at Ogilvy because he “just didn’t want to work anymore.”

8. The works of Jack Kerouac

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“Great things are not accomplished by those who yield to trends and fads and popular opinion.” – Jack Kerouac …Like paying for books, right?

9. Steal This Book

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Title says it all.

10. Travel guidebooks

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The thieves seem to be directionally-challenged nomads.

Brooklyn store manager Zack Zook seems to think the reason for the apparent sexism exhibited by book thieves is just part of the bro-code. “It’s mostly younger men stealing the books,” he told Rabb, “They think it’s an existential rite of passage to steal their homeboy.”

Book theft is seen as the biggest form of sacrilege to some devout word-lovers (after burning/throwing them away, of course). Others, like the author from Boulder who got caught swiping his own book, feel entitled to the works. While we’ll never know how Kerouac would feel about someone shoving his book down their pants, we would like to know how you feel. Have you ever nabbed yourself a book? If not, which one tempts you?

THE CASTAWAY COLLECTOR OF BROOKLYN

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The Castaway Collector of Brooklyn

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21ST JUN, 2013

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In Boerum Place, Brooklyn, New York lives a man in an apartment with many things. Chong Gon Byun is his name and he arrived in New York City from Korea 25 years ago. Your initial thoughts on Byun might be that he is an obsessive vintage gatherer, a flea market bargain hunter, a hoarder. But a closer look, and you’ll see his ability to sculpt, rearrange, reconnect and rejuvinate castaway and found objects has an unmistakable genius behind it. But before I ramble on, let’s first meet Byun at his Brooklyn apartment…

This beautiful video from This Must be the Place series is brought to you by Lost & Found films.

Naturally, after stumbling across this short documentary, I had to see more of Byun’s work.

https://vimeo.com/14938491

I’m not usually one to appreciate abstract art and so often, sculptures made out of vintage bric-a-brac can look disturbing. Byun however, combines and recreates these castaway objects, with all their history and nostalgia, using such artisanal skill, clever wit,  attention to detail, and might I add, good taste.

Byun’s main work consists of painting and assemblage of discarded objects, cast away from our indutrial consumer society.

“Throughout the 5,000 years of history, we Koreans placed much emphases, on living in harmony with nature, and paying respect to the parents and elders,” says Byun. “Whether the items were antique or new, it was customary for the previous generation to hand over those ancestoral objects to the next generation, as a ritual. The objects that were used and are no longer useful, [but] still has its unique history and invaluable story to tell.”

“The clash between post-industrial civilization, and the present capitalist culture, becomes my main theme and casue for concern.” 

“The clash between post-industrial civilization, and the present capitalist culture, becomes my main theme and casue for concern.”

“When I was growing up in Korea, I always noticed a family portrait adorned  by an antique frame, placed at the center with care, where it can be shown with dignity. Those tarnished and yellowing photographs would reveal the amily’s past, leading in the present and even the future. This image became imbedded in my mind.”

See more of Byun’s work here