Finally, a guide dedicated to the art of trash picking and dumpster diving.
Contrary to popular belief, trash picking and dumpster diving are NOT solely for poor people. I’ve found some great shit in the trash. Depending on where you look, you can find anything from computers to household knickknacks to DVD players to flat screen TVs. I shit you not, when I was 16, I had a network of like five trash-picked computers in my room. It would have been six, but my dad nearly had an aneurysm and told me to get rid of some of them.
When I was younger, my little cousin and I would go out every night before trash day with a shopping cart and load up. The best part is, with the invention of sites like Craigslist it’s easy to make a profit off of trash picked stuff. I sold a piece of shit nightstand to some dumbass for $15.
“Wow AJ, this sounds pretty fucking awesome. Where’s the best place to trash pick/dumpster dive?”
For trash picking, your best bet is to go to the suburbs the night before trash day.
As for dumpster diving, some of the best places are schools, strip malls, and those Salvation Army donation bins. I don’t know about other states, but here in Pennsylvania leaving stuff outside the bins is considered illegal dumping, and those who do it are subjected to fines if caught. They’re not doing me a favor by leaving it, I’m doing them a favor by taking it. Besides, most of the shit goes to other countries. Fuck the foreigners, my country comes first.
The following is a list of what kind of objects you can expect to find at certain locations.
Curbside In The Suburbs
- Pricey furniture with little to no defects
- DVD players in working condition, or with some really small issue that you could probably fix by opening it
- TVs that work, sometimes even flat screens
- Computers, some with monitors
- Household knickknacks, like those fruity ceramic holiday ornaments
- CDs, but usually yuppy acoustic guitar bullshit you probably won’t like
- Outdated computers that can probably be used for spare parts
- Office supplies
- Classroom decorations that could be made to look cool/humorous if you are skilled with paint markers
Salvation Army Donation Bins
- Clothing in either good condition, or brand new with tags still on them (great for resale purposes)
- Computers, with monitors
- DVD players
- Portable DVD players
- Household knickknacks, in good condition for resale
- DVDs and VHS cassettes, usually of shit you don’t like
- CDs, usually of shit you don’t like
- Vacuum cleaners (Great birthday present for wife/girlfriend!)
- Children’s toys
- Porcelain dolls (Usually good enough for resale)
- Baby stuff, like playpens or rocker seats
- Purses. Lots and lots of purses. I mean, holy shit they leave a ton of empty purses. No more purses, please!
- Cutlery sets
- Tupperware sets
- Pots and pans
- Board games
- Floppy disks
- CD label-making kits
- Porn (Seriously)
- Boogie boards
- Bowling balls
As you can see, the outside of the Salvation Army donation bins have the most stuff. Of course, there are rules that should be followed to ensure success.
1. Respect the law
If a dumpster is locked up, chances are the owner doesn’t want you in it.
Sure, locking up trash may be some dickhead shit, but if you break the lock and get busted, you’ll end up spending a night in the Iron Bar Hotel and more than likely end up with a hefty fine.
The same applies with the Salvation Army Donation Bins. The stuff on the outside is fair game, but if you somehow manage to get inside the bin and take stuff from there, you’re just a thief. If you have to force your way into something, it’s best to just leave it be.
If you feel you won’t get caught, nobody’s holding you back. But don’t cry to me when you get slapped with a $216 fine or something.
2. Don’t let people see you
Most people frown upon trash picking and dumpster diving, because they’re better than you. You might wonder why their shit doesn’t stink. That’s because they’d rather pay $30 for a DVD player or hundreds of dollars for a TV, only to encounter some small issue and throw it away. Then someone with half a brain comes along and repair it, thus obtaining a free DVD player or TV.
This one time, my girlfriend and I went to the Salvation Army on a Sunday in hopes of raiding the goodies outside of the bin whilst they were closed. It was around 3 in the afternoon when we pulled in to the parking lot. Some 80 year old guy was sitting in a Salvation Army truck watching everyone put stuff in the bin. We figured he was just waiting to load all the shit into the truck and drop it off wherever. Whatever, let’s run some errands in the area, then come back later.
We came back around 7 at night, and the guy was still there. Nothing was loaded, and the guy was just chilling there with his truck on like he had been doing four hours ago. Further more, there was no other vehicle parked anywhere in the lot. So what the fuck was this guy doing? We went to get dinner then call it a night, figuring this guy wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
An hour later, we passed the place on our way home and the guy was gone, truck and all. The shit outside the bin was completely untouched. What the fuck? The guy must have no life. He seems like the type of guy who’s been working there so long that they let him take the truck home, and he sits and patrols the place on Sundays without the knowledge of the store. What a jerk off. I doubt you can get arrested for taking stuff that was illegally dumped, but a confrontation with some do-gooder asshole who calls the cops isn’t really worth it.
That is, unless there’s old video game consoles there. A SNES or Sega Genesis is definitely worth grabbing then speeding off in your car while hoping the person didn’t get your plate number and report it. I mean, sure the chances of you coming across this person again during a future trip to the location are relatively high, but as long as I can play games like Mortal Kombat, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario World, and Legend of Zelda, then I don’t really give a shit. You know what was a really awesome game? Donkey Kong Country on the SNES.
Then there’s the people who will stare at you while you’re looking through the dumpsters. They won’t say anything, they’ll just stare at you. That’s arguably worse than them directly asking you what you’re doing. At least then you’d have a chance to defend your actions. Some people will even go as far as threatening to call the police. Why are they so concerned about me looking in the dumpsters behind the schools anyway? Did they dump a body or something?
If someone does see you, don’t panic, and just keep doing what you’re doing. Most of the time, people will just glance for a second and won’t make a fuss or stare. If you start acting nervous or shady you’re just giving them an incentive to watch you.
3. Don’t make a mess
People are leaving you free shit. Don’t be a douchebag and throw garbage around everywhere. You’ll not only ruin the prospect of future foraging for yourself, but you’ll also ruin it for people like me. And if you ruin it for me, I’ll find out who you are and kill your family.
4. Don’t dig through bags
This really only applies to curbside trash and dumpsters.
Nine times out of ten, there’s nothing in trash bags except trash. By ripping open bags, you’re increasing the probability of violating #3.
However, there are times when people throw away good stuff in trash bags. This is usually because they don’t want people like you to take their trash. Grandiose fucks like this need to be taken down a peg, so it’s up to you to do that. Don’t hesitate to rip open bags that look and feel like they have something good in them. Also, don’t hesitate to egg their houses on Mischief Night (the night before Halloween).
5. The person who found the object first gets it
There are times when you’re trash picking or dumpster diving with someone else and you come across something really cool, like a large Spongebob Squarepants doll. The first person who clearly stated that they found the object is entitled to it. If there is reasonable debate as to who found the object first, flip a coin.
If the other person is someone who isn’t with you, go ahead and kick the shit out of/kill them. That computer with the 4 gig harddrive, Windows 95, 150 MHz processor, and 256MB of RAM is worth the broken nose/15 years in prison.
6. If there’s no use for it, leave it be
This is a common mistake.
People decide to take stuff that can’t be fixed or that they can’t use or sell. This just takes up space for things you may find later that are useful. If you have no room for a sofa or a chair, leave it for someone who does.
7. Trash picking food is nasty
EDIT FROM THE FUTURE: I’ve written an entire article on these people, who call themselves “Freegans”. Also, buy Bitcoin now, it’ll hit $60,000 a coin in 2021. Stop calling them “Buttcoins”.
There are a surprising amount of trash pickers and dumpster divers who will take canned goods or other unopened non-perishables that they find. They defend this with logic like “If it’s not expired and it’s not open, I won’t get sick.” The only valid excuse for doing this is if you’re homeless and starving to death. Otherwise, it’s just nasty.
Trash picking and dumpster diving are losing popularity, mainly because of the illusion held by the middle class that such acts are for the lower class. What these people fail to realize is they’re just as much peasants as the lower class, if not more, being that they’re the ones doing all the work for the upper class. Let them mock you. They’re the ones who just blew a ton of money on something they could have gotten for free. For lulz, you could try to sell them something you trash picked. Oh, the irony.