Dumpster Dive

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General Notes

  • Pickup is 3 times a week?
  • Hardest part is deciding how you're going to separate
  • Why do we dumpster dive?
  • Jay (from Ben C. has old excel files)

What to Bring

  • Tarp
  • Plastic Bags
  • Scale
  • Notebook


  • Make sure dumpster isn't empty
  • Put down Tarp
  • Pull out Dumpster Bags
  • Separate bag contents into piles
    • Paper
    • Containers
    • Compost
    • Trash
  • Bag piles
  • Tare scale with a person
  • Weigh pile with tared person
  • 5-6 people per dumpster

What to Track

  • Weight of recyclables in trash dumpster
  • Weight of trash in trash dumpster
  • Weight of recyclables in recycling dumpster
  • Weight of trash in recycling dumpster

Previous Dives

Diving Tips

  • Occasionally store owners will dump poison on the contents of their dumpsters to discourage dumpster diving. But they will usually use something that is very obviously poisonous. If you have poor eyesight or have lost your sense of smell (heavy tobacco smokers have this problem) then maybe you should leave the selection to someone with undamaged senses. Our senses have developed over millions of years to discern good food from bad, use them. If something looks or smells "chancy," pass.
  • Supermarkets throw away tons of food because it is a week past the do not sell date or has browned or wilted a bit. I've seen hundreds of packages of three lemons with one rotten and two shiny fresh fruit. And egg cartons with one or two broken eggs. If the package is still sealed but has begun to bloat, as in yoghurt, or any kind of canned or packaged food, is best to pass. Meat is always chancy, modern dyes and chemicals can hide deadly toxins that develop overnight. On the other hand I am always pleased to find bones and skin and scraps from the meat dept which I take home and cook with rice for my dogs. Rotten produce can be fed to pigs or chickens, or composted to grow veggies.
  • Don't make a mess. Leave the area neater than you found it. If you encounter an employee be polite and if asked, leave the area immediately. (Which isn't to say you can't come back later on a different shift.)
  • Bring along a short step ladder and a broom handle with a metal hook on the end. This way you rarely need to jump into the dumpster. You can stand next to it and rake interesting objects into view.
  • If you see broken glass in the dumpster best to pass on unpackaged stuff. Tiny slivers of glass fly everywhere and you don't need to risk ingesting any.
  • Cheese is often dumpstered because it has a spot of mould on it. Whittle off the mouldy part and chow down.
  • Try not look too raggedy or dirty. In a lot of cases the vendor's objections to dumpster divers stems from the fear that customer's bigotry against poor people will reduce sales. A major infraction in supermarkets.
  • Source: Ray Barnes (email on freeganworld listserv)