Dumpster Diving or: How I Learned to Stop Buying and Love the Trash

A floor lamp. A Magic Bullet blender. Handfuls of hangers. Two storage ottomans. Unopened bulk packages of trail mix and granola bars, ziplock bags, and dish detergent. Towels and a bathrobe. A popcorn machine. Costume ladybug wings. Four fans of different sizes. Slightly sticky but gently used Tupperware, pots, and mixing bowls.

dumpster divingThis is just a smattering of the things Matt and I dug out of the dorm dumpsters over move-out weekend. And there was a lot we didn’t take–we left behind at least two printers and a microwave, both perfectly good–leaving us perplexed at how truly wasteful our peers (and our culture as a whole) is.

We’re pretty sure that students were just throwing away anything and everything that wouldn’t fit in their cars for the drive home, and some of those things are necessities that they’ll have to buy again next year.

Their loss, though, since Matt and I aren’t complaining about our newfound goodies (okay, we’re complaining about the sunburns we acquired, but that’s it). We’ll take all those housewares to our apartment next year. Our day spent dumpster diving likely saved us hundreds of dollars, and it’s also sustainable–those quality items can be used instead of rotting in a landfill.

You know what they say, one student’s trash is another’s entire kitchen.

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42 thoughts on “Dumpster Diving or: How I Learned to Stop Buying and Love the Trash

  1. LOL. I was just lecturing my college daughter on dumpster diving at school when I picked her up last weekend. She scooped up a really cool plate and a scarf. There was tons of stuff. Can’t believe what people throw away.

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  2. I loved the clean-out days of the storage spaces at my school. Got some truly great stuff there!
    As someone who had to clear out each summer and could only store so much at the school (the rest had to be lugged on the plane back across the country with me), I always tried to find good homes to anything I was going to get rid of (that wasn’t truly junk). Someone to hold it until the next fall, or someone to give it a good, new, home.

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  3. When I was in college – I was appalled at what other students threw out! I didn’t throw out anything unless it was actual trash – My parents (or myself) could not afford to buy a new chair/shelf/furniture every year! How ridiculous! Dumpster diving is awesome – and yard sales – I got so many awesome things for my apartment at yard sales!

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  4. This sort of thing makes me crazy! I did the same thing back in school. I got just about everything at one time or another after dorm clean out day, including a microwave. It bothers me that this is still going on. Haven’t we learned anything as a society? Good for you! You kept all that stuff out of a landfill!

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  5. I am shocked that Americans throw out perfectly good things & glad to know there are people like you retrieving these items. I shop 2nd hand stores & Grocery Outlet myself.
    This doesn’t happen in Europe. If you throw out more than a 6 by 6 square of garbage, you get fined! My friends there saved all their empty cologne & perfume bottles!
    Such is life in this country that is always complaining but is so quick to be wasteful!
    All the best!
    A young American woman goes to war-torn El Salvador: tinyurl.com/klxbt4y

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  6. It doesn’t stop after college, either! Some of the moms in my neighborhood have noticed that others put absolutely, perfectly good items out for the trash. We will snap pics and post them in Facebook with an address, and whoever needs it will swoop in. We’ve started a neighborhood Facebook page just for hand-me-downs and treasure-trash so that things don’t go to waste! If only more people would do the same,

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  7. I am from Germany and here, it is the same. Some things works perfectly, maybe have only a small scratches and still people trow this things away.
    But at Facebook there are groups for every big city, where you can give things away for free.

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  8. Wow, that’s amazing that you found all that in a bin! I mean good for you, you got a great deal there (why would someone throw out trail mix though? that makes no sense!) but it’s sad that so much gets wasted. In the UK we have a real culture of taking things to charity shops (thrift stores is the US equivalent I guess) so at least not too much good stuff is thrown away, but sadly there’s no such thing in Hong Kong and if there’s something you want to get rid off but that someone else could use, well it can only go to the bin.

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  9. My son always picked up a lot of perfectly usable stuff during move out week when he was in college. I think if the school would allow an easy way for students to store more things over the summer, it wouldn’t be so bad so they are partially to blame. My daughter had to leave a lot behind when she moved back to California after college in Baltimore. They just didn’t have room in the two cars driving back then one car broke down in Kentucky and had to be left behind. They have away add much add they could to motel staff and to the people at the auto repair place. My daughter still sheds tears over what she had to leave behind.

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    • I think that’s a lot of it. I have to pay for a storage unit regardless, but I understand that sometimes things just don’t fit in the car and you have to make choices.

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  10. One of my best friends does this at school! Or, well, he did before we graduated. He was the king of dumpster diving and I scored a we’re pretty confident its real Louis Vuitton wallet out of it a few weeks ago! I can’t say I’ve ever been myself, but one doesn’t need to go dumpster diving when one is friends with Paul. He’s got that down. :)

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  11. I can’t imagine all of that stuff getting thrown away! At the very least, it would have ended up at a Goodwill in my family. :/ That really is wasteful.

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  12. Years ago, my husband worked in an apartment complex. We were absolutely horrified at what ended up at the dumpster – until we started to take advantage of some of the leavings. It supplemented his poor income, for sure. I know someone in NYC who has furnished his small apartment (he is not a high income person) through dumpster diving – all high quality stuff.

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