The Benefits of Dumpster Diving



the-system-was-never-broken-it-was-built-this-wayThis form of saving the world’s economy  and ecology while making a living at the same time is becoming increasingly popular.  It is Dumpster diving!

In its crudest form it is saving and re-using stuff that gets thrown out in dumpsters or  on the streets.  In Europe this has caught on enormously and gaining momentum as we speak. Well-dressed former business people and unemployed accountants are seen diving dumpsters. In Australia this dumping of superfluous goods is most noticeable during Shire-Council collection days. The much loved grassy bits in front of our suburban houses are temporarily surrendered and given over to our unwanted goods by those living adjacent to those grass strips, euphemistically called ‘nature strip.’  Dogs love them too.

Years ago, this dumping had already started in Balmain. We lived in Balmain till 1996. In the nineties this inner city working class suburb was starting to morph into respectability. Endless jackhammering and expensive renovations were normal. Television personalities were moving in with expert lawyers.  Nervous estate agents roaming the streets looking for juicy deals. I rescued a fridge and  TV. After dragging them home ,  I switched them on and they worked. I was baffled. Who would throw things out that were working?

That was just the beginning.

I have since rescued many unloved items, including a box full of TV antennas. Who would throw out TV antennas? Were they stolen? While I have no qualms about dragging some goods home or scanning charity shops for fashion items, I have yet to rescue discarded culinary delights. I have looked but not yet partaken. Next time when you are near any food outlets, go and look inside food-bins that are close by fast food outlets. It leaves me wondering if people sometimes buy take-away without feeling hungry. A few weeks ago I had a look inside a bin near a Domino Pizza place. It had a pizza still in the box with just one bite taken out. It appeared to be a meat-lover pizza as it had different kinds of sausage, salami and a slurry, perhaps a mince meat mixture. There was nothing wrong with it and still fresh. I am sure those bins get emptied each day. I wasn’t hungry, but even so… a nice slice of salami?

From living frugally with ‘waste not wont not’ still ringing in our ears from early parental upbringing, it stood the times. My parents ultimate disapproval would be reserved for those wasting food. During the war we would delight in scarce potato peelings soup dinners, dancing around the table. My parents never let up telling us how food was so scarce during the war. Over-fed toddlers now get Dr Seuss bed-time stories told. War kids got soup kitchen adventures and potato-skin soup stories re-told shivering under newspaper-made blankets.. Even now, I don’t peel potatoes and we scuff the lot instead. If plastic spoons and forks had been available during those times, I am sure they would got eaten. We never throw out food. If the bread gets mouldy we toast or,  if green, put it to the worms. We are both united in this, and leftovers never wasted.

Diving in Dumpsters is now not just for derelicts or vagabonds. It has become popular by entrepreneurial people who make a living from passing on and selling what they can scour out of bins. They are to be seen early in the mornings. Some take buckets with them. The more organized have trolleys. The economic downturns and lack of adequate welfare wakens survival instincts and this industry has sprung up as a result.

There are those that predict dire economic results from the frugality phenomenon now sweeping the world. Apparently the economy depends on us spending what we don’t have. Australia is badly situated with our private debt being one of the largest in the world.  An increase in interest rates or a downturn in real estate could easily spin out of control very quickly.  On the other hand to keep spending what we don’t have is just as loopy.

The Domino discarded food in bins might yet come in handy.

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14 Responses to “The Benefits of Dumpster Diving”

  1. Christine Says:

    Some years ago, I went to the back door of our house as I’d heard a noise coming from the bin area. There was one of my aunts, peering into the bin. She said she knew I threw out sliced bread (without finishing the packet – shock!horror!). I don’t know who was the more uncomfortable. I think I was.
    And no . . it was not a case of her being in need.
    A puzzlement, as the King of Siam said.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Big M Says:

    Yes, Gerard, at any one council clean up one could find enough stuff to build a house, or car, or bicycles for a family. Likewise, plenty of untouched food in any city or town bins.

    Where will it all end?

    I’ll probably need to get my dumpster diving certificate.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Consumption might have run its course. We can try and get more TVs or lettuce spinners but finally we run out of power points to plug in all the electric goods.
      Even dumpsters are spilling over now. I have yet to find civility in a dumpster though. There must be shortage of that item.


  3. roughseasinthemed Says:

    Australia must still be well-off, there are no good pickings in Spain any more 😦 although the odd few have been found in Gib in the past year or so.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Do they have Dumpsters in the Gib? Still some good pickings in Father Riley’s stores. They don’t accept electronics anymore. Kind ladies work as volunteers. I should go there today and wish them a happy Women’s day.


  4. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    The old saying is still true: One man’s junk is another man;s treasure. Besides,it’s fun to ponder what some items are and why anyone bought them.

    Liked by 1 person

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      We carried a bed into the boot of our car yesterday. It was on special at Aldi’s. I told the cashier Helvi and I were going on a honeymoon. She laughed a bit. Helvi quickly said; who are you going on a honeymoon with?
      Ha, ha.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. stuartbramhall Says:

    We have all been conditioned to believe that ours is a throw away – mainly because such beliefs increase consumption and corporate profits. I find it highly refreshing to see people rebel against this conditioning.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Stuart,
      Op shops and charity shops are doing well. We rarely buy new clothing. So much wonderful second hand, often hardly worn, is selling at a fraction of the cost.
      I wished that Australia would follow Paris’ method of taxing owners of vacant houses a 60% tax on the value of their empty possessions.
      Apparently tens of thousands of houses are left empty in Sydney by owners who are just riding the ever increasing property market. Hundreds of thousands of houses are also vacant in NYC
      And the homeless are sleeping rough.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. shoreacres Says:

    I’m a dumpster diver from way back. The best thing I ever found was the teak surround for a hatch on a Cheoy Lee sailboat. It was a mess, but I picked it up, brought it home, cleaned, sanded and varnished it, and sold it on ebay for a couple of hundred dollars or so. I’ve forgotten what it fetched now, but it certainly was a lot.

    Our dumpster is like a giant, unattended swap meet. People leave “good stuff” outside the dumpster, and it always disappears fairly quickly. I got some nice clay flower pots once, and a dove egg that had been laid in a hanging basket. I still have them all — even the egg, which didn’t go bad, but just hardened.

    The most amusing offering was a painting of flowers in a garish frame. It sat there for weeks and weeks. Someone even draped a tarp over it to protect it from the rain. Usually, someone will snatch paintings right away — for the frame if nothing else — but not so with that one. It did disappear, eventually, but I suspect the maintenance staff got tired of having it around and just tossed it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • gerard oosterman Says:

      I would nominate you as dumpster diver of the year, Linda.

      I can see you doing up sail boat hatches. A popular small sailboat in Australia used to be ‘the Top Hat,’

      We often drive by on Shire council collection day as do many others. The early bird catches etc. It is amazing. Some stuff is still like new. People now put stuff on the nature strip without waiting for the collection day.
      We put out a perfectly working bread maker. It was gone within minutes. The same with a Webber charcoal burner.

      The backroom at Father Riley is always full of the volunteer women who give their time to help those in need or even those not so much in need. I think they love going through all the donations. They get the pick of the best first. That is fair enough, I reckon.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Curt Mekemson Says:

    Folks here put used goods out on the street with a free sign on them. I have a good friend in Sacramento who was one of the city’s major interior decorators. She was forever driving down the streets looking for old, discarded items to use in her business. Drove her kids crazy. I was visiting my brother in Florida a few years back, a proudly homeless man with van and a bank account, when he introduced me to Dumpster Diver Dan. Dan told me he had lunch in his oven and invited me over to his house, a beat up old car. The spaghetti that he had just rescued from a dumpster was sitting in a can in the cars back window, being warmed by the sun. A couple of weeks earlier Dan had found some slightly aging roses that had been thrown out by a florist. He brought them back to camp and gave each woman who was staying there a bouquet. They loved it! –Curt


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