Tag Archives: 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!


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?

If you’re arrested for dumpster diving, this activist has your back


If you’re arrested for dumpster diving, this activist has your back

Get out there and dumpster dive for food, says Rob Greenfield. He’ll pay your tickets.

A huge percentage of food gets wasted each and every day in much of the developed world, and yet millions of people in those same countries don’t always know where their next meal is coming from. When the amount of food waste is viewed in comparison to the number of people who experience food insecurity on a regular basis, one obvious solution would be to feed people some of the food that would otherwise end up in the dumpster.

Some food businesses and retailers are moving in that direction, by donating some of their ‘past date’ or blemished items to local food banks or charitable organizations, but that still seems to be the exception, rather than the rule. But for the individual, family, or group that wants to be able to eat (or to feed others) for free from this wasted food, dumpster diving is usually the only recourse. Sometimes, just asking if you can have the ‘day-old’ baked goods or the slightly wilted produce can be successful, but many businesses don’t allow their employees to give away the food, so it ends up in the dumpster.

We’ve covered dumpster diving pretty extensively over the years, and while it isn’t for everyone (even though it’s not nearly as gross as the name might imply), or for every meal, taking advantage of this free food that will otherwise end up in the landfill could be one solution to feeding the hungry (or yourself) for free, using the resources already at hand.

One food waste activist, Rob Greenfield, who fueled his cross-country bike tour with dumpster food, wants to bring more awareness (and change) to what he calls the Food Waste Fiasco, and to that end, he’s promised to cover you if you get arrested for dumpster diving for food.

“If you get arrested or ticketed for dumpster diving for food I promise to pay the ticket(s), get media coverage to the issue, and make sure that you are in safe hands. I will even travel to your town to be there in person if it will add to the positive impact of the event.” – Rob Greenfield

Rob isn’t encouraging anyone to get arrested for dumpster diving, but rather to stop being afraid of being arrested or ticketed for the practice, which he says isn’t illegal in most places (unlike trespassing, which is). Check out his post about it at his site, which also has links to some great Freegan and dumpster diving resources.

Tags: Dumpster Diving | Waste