Dumpster Diving


One person's garbage is another person's treasure.

Dumpster diving is another Davis form of recycling. Many businesses and school organizations throw out wonderful things. Also on moving day in Davis dumpster diving is practically a civic duty. Dumpster diving early and often can help furnish your apartment! Don't pay for furniture that might get ruined quickly. Items as large as couches and as small as wall art are often found in dumpsters at end of August/beginning of September. Also see Freshmen Move Out Day.

txt_dump1.gif— from the Manson Family leader's song [WWW]Garbage Dump

The Aggie did a front page story called [WWW]Diving for Dinner on May 15, 2005.

Kind and considerate folks know to leave their usable items besides the dumpster, rather than throw them in, so that others who want it may find them in good shape. Reuse is by far the most efficient form of recycling.

Here is how you do it. Find a dumpster, climb in, and search for something useful. Some amazing things can be found in dumpsters in this town. Many of the grocery stores regularly throw away perfectly good food (some of which is then eaten at Whole Earth Festival meetings).

A notable dumpster diver named Gill used to be seen rummaging the town's dumpsters.

Dumpster Diving is also a classic hacker technique for finding information that leads to an exploit.

dumpsterbating: whereupon an individual finds useful things in their own trash.

Trash Temples


Good Dumpsters

no-diving-sign.jpgSome dumpsters are less friendly than others

[WWW]FallingFruit.org: The global freegan / foraging map now includes all the dumpsters listed below. The map can be edited, much like a wiki, to pinpoint other choice locations that folks might want to share.

Departed Dumpsters

Opportunity Knocks

msc_moving.jpgPeople in Davis are so used to scavengers that you'll often find furniture left outside homes rather than hauling it to the dump or trying to sell it.

In August and early September of 2004 Sycamore Lane Apartments was gutting all of their apartments in an early phase of the renovation still visible today (2/14/05). Because it was a furnished apartment complex, this meant they were also scrapping the furniture from all of the apartments. Their giant commercial dumpsters overflowed with couches, tables, lamps, filing cabinets, and chairs (many of which were still in great condition). The overflow was not only scattered around the dumpsters, but nearly filled the parking lots as well. Picture frames, glass cutting boards, mattresses, box-springs, bed frames—the longer one looked, the more one found. Once word was out that everything was open game, the ensuing free-for-all was a sight to see. People of all types came from far and wide and took was they could. In cars, in trucks, on bicycles, and on foot, home furnishings spread throughout the city in all directions.

A friend of mine once found a live, large tarantula still in it's plastic tank. Some jerk apparently decided to just throw the furry guy away. —DanMasiel (This was a sad find, but we saved it, and named it Tranny —MikeyNolan)

Can someone explain to me why a DCR dumpster is good? That joke went way over my head and i dont get it. Did someone find something good on DCR from a dumpster? - GeorgejAndrews

I went to Borders to check out the book-tossing miracle. Indeed there are hundreds of cover-less books. Unfortunately, however, it seems they didn't just remove the covers. They've removed the first 10-30 pages. Bummer. Couldn't we just send a few copies of every book to the Davis libraries or perhaps to my house? —MichaelGiardina

On August 28th I stopped by a dumpster at one of those apartment complexes off of Alvarado Avenue, but I was beat to the punch by a guy driving a nice Corvette. As I stepped out of my car he quickly raised his head from inside the dumpster telling me, "man, I've already got this one cleaned out. You'd better move on". I had the feeling he was funding his Corvette (or its insurance) by selling his new-found dumpster treasures.

Although dumpster diving for furniture, clothes and other non-perishable items is all good, I find the idea of dumpster diving for food dangerous. If the food has been there for a while, scraping off the fuzzy mold doesn't make the food good. The fuzzy part is only the spores and dispersal structures, the vast majority of the mold is the hyphae that has probably worked it's way all the way through the foodstuff. It's also notable that decomposing molds produce very potent toxins, for example, the mold that grows on the shells of peanuts and the outsides of other legumes and nuts, is the source of the second most potent carcinogen known to humans, the number one being dioxin. In addition, flies, such as Calliphora and Muscidae flies, home in on fresh organic matter, and have very promiscuous feeding habits. Calliphorids and Muscids tend to be born and raised in feces, and have been shown to be competent vectors of a wide variety of pathogens, such as dysentery, typhus and other gastrointestinal illnesses. And if that doesn't discourage you, whatever microbes and germs that are already in the dumpster can easily transfer themselves to any foodstuffs inside, and especially if you're diving in the suburbs, realize that people not only toss food, but soiled diapers, used tampons and plenty of household chemicals not fit for consumption in the same trash can. This isn't to say that diving for dinner is going to kill you. Just that it may make you very sick.

my apartment complex has concrete dumpster areas, in this area i found a large drawer to a desk that was equally huge but broken completely in half. Since the drawer was solid wood, not pressboard or anything i dragged it upstairs to my apartment. It also had a wooden drawer divider. I later cleaned it off, sanded and painted it white. It now stands on its side, and makes a lovely night stand. —KirstenHaney

Thank you so much Kirsten for pointing that out. I think dumpster diving for (most) clothes, furniture, and other non-foodstuffs is definitely safe - though some things like soiled clothes are questionable; my mom always chided me on that one when we shopped at thrift stores. People make it sound like dumpster diving for food is all good, when it probably isn't. Businesses probably throw away most food for a reason, like maybe certain foods have expired or has grown mold on it. Dumpster diving for some foodstuffs that are still in its package and are manufactured to have a very long shelf-life, like candy, will probably be your safest bet. Other food items are more questionable and I think people should be more discerning. Hey, I know we're a wasteful society that makes way too much food for its people and then throws it away - but that does not mean we should eat food that could cause serious illness. If you want to be resourceful with food, there are safer, better ways of doing it. Check out the Free Food page for some better tips. Just because our society is stupid does not mean you have to be stupid. —ArielaHaro

I find it disturbing that people think of Manson when they think of Dumpster Divers. I'm insulted. —TobinJones

As both a business and dumpster owner and an unrepentant scrounge, I strongly suggest that after a dumpster diving adventure you clean up the area. Most business owners don't mind a little dumpster recycling but they do mind a big mess around the dumpster. Put the trash back into the dumpster, put the dumpster back where it was and close the lids. If you leave junk piled up around the dumpster, it attracts more junk from passers-by and the owner has to clean it up. Nothing encourages an owner to put a lock on a dumpster like having to clean up a mess a couple of times. —grumpyoldgeek

ithacaIthaca participates in a program called "Dump and Run" [WWW]http://www.dumpandrun.org/ where students can leave their good stuff out (at certain locations) and volunteers pick it up. Then they have a huge rummage sale in the late summer when the new students come back, and all the proceeds go to local charities. Although I love dumpster diving (and especially loved it in Davis where furniture can sit out for weeks in the summer without fear of rain damage), I am certain that there is lots of great stuff that is not found by divers and goes to the dump...especially after Freshmen Move Out Day. Don't know how a program like this gets started, but I think Davis could definately benefit! —Janelle

It's great that the area is so lax/supportive of dumpster diving, which is, legally speaking, generally illegal. I am a total diver, and just read this article about dumpster diving where most all of the comments condemned dumpster diving, and it was terrible. I love the amount of recycling going on around Davis though. —

What are the best times for dumpster diving before and during moving day in Davis? —

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