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.

— from the Manson Family leader's song Garbage Dump

The Aggie did a front page story called 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

  • Your neighbor's dumpster

    Apartment complexes are best because at any time somebody is probably cleaning a closet or moving; middle class neighborhoods seem to generate more stuff than the rich folk.

  • Gourmet diving

    Eating food daily is essential, whether you've got the bucks or not. Diving around places that actually produce/resell food versus restaurants will probably yield the best quality, e.g. bakeries, grocery stores. Fast food places regularly toss anything that doesn't sell that day, candy stores sell a product that doesn't really go bad, and movie theaters regularly toss giant bags of popcorn. And if you're diving the burbs, you can score when freezers get cleaned or canned products get tossed on moving day. Diving for food can be risky, so you could instead try hunting for other sources of free food in Davis.

  • Bookstores

    When paperbacks and magazines don't sell, the covers get ripped off and sent back to the publisher for a return credit. If you're looking for material for your toilet/library, check behind these places. And don't forget that music stores carry music mags that can be enjoyable potty reading.

  • Discount stores

    Cheapie places like The Dollar Tree toss lots of empty boxes from which you can construct a three-season shelter. Most students opt to hit up mom/dad for rent money, but in a pinch... These places, including Longs, regularly toss slightly damaged/returned goods and plants that they've very nearly killed.

  • Toy/novelty/thrift stores

    Success in this arena is a long shot in Davis, but don't fore-go the dumpsters behind Davis' few high end baby, toy, and novelty stores... if you can drive a real car that's been beat to sh*t, you can certainly play with a beat up toy car! On this note, don't forget your neighborhood thrift stores or consignment shops - after a while, some things just aren't worth the real estate cost for retailers.

  • Florist shops/funeral home

    Perhaps little more than a cut above stealing them from the Davis Cemetery or somebody's yard, check out the dumpsters behind one of Davis' florist shops for slightly damaged and wilted flowers. If you aren't too afraid, look behind the funeral home after services to see what's gotten tossed once the funeral party has gone.

  • Copy stores

    Copy shops occasionally toss lots of slightly defective office supplies such as boxes of envelopes that don't quite seal.

  • Photo developers

    These dumpsters just make good entertainment. Imperfect and often risqué photos are tossed in damp, chemical-laden bags. Find out what your neighbors have been up to when the curtains are shut!

  • Organizations of Evil

    I guess the University might fall within this category, and it certainly does provide ripe pickins' for books, interesting papers, old computers/software/lab equipment, and the like. But perhaps more importantly, you can find some great information in dumpsters of organizations such as Davis College Republicans, Women's Center, International House, Sword and Sandals meetings, fraternities, etc.

  • Dumpster Ethics If a dumpster is locked, there's probably a reason.

Good Dumpsters

Some dumpsters are less friendly than others 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.

  • Anderson Plaza dumpsters often have expired food and occasional videos. Dinner and a date!
  • Campus dumpsters provide good pickin's.
  • Department of Pomology's compost bin between Wickson Hall and Wellman Hall is usually filled to the brim with fresh fruits and nuts. Most of it has been experimented on so beware.
    • Hardcore, man. —ct
  • Cost Plus requires its employees to throw out any damaged item, even if it's just a scratch, so you may be lucky to find a chair or something out there.
  • The Lexington Apartments on Olive Drive have their dumpsters' dived really on an hourly basis. This is due to the low income population (actually not the students this time) that live down the block.
  • Liquor store dumpsters are worth a look, although they may already be popular with homeless people. Many treasures there to be found for the cash-strapped student or underager (I do not endorse underage drinking). But FYI liquor store dumpsters are also known as urinals.
  • The Davis Food Co-Op had a good dumpster, now it is under lock and key due to Yolo County health regulations.
  • The dumpsters along Drake Drive have had free furniture.
  • The dumpsters at the North Davis Safeway on Covell generally have better food than the South Davis Safeway on Cowell.

Departed Dumpsters

  • Borders dumpster often has stripped books.
    • If you're dumpster diving for pornography magazines, you're definitely cheap and pathetic.
      • Though it is an interesting way of not financially supporting a questionable industry —ArielaHaro
        • Are you cheap and pathetic if you did it when you were well under the age of 18 and legally unable to purchase it? If memory serves correctly they used to cycle the girlie mags around the 18th >:D
          • Nah, at that point you're just pathetic :)
          • Myself, I actually found a foot-tall stack of porn when I was 12. Angels were singing, I swear.

Opportunity Knocks

People 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.

  • But it happened at the expense of people like me that were living there and got thrown out before the lease was up and had nowhere to put stuff. I would have grabbed some tables and hauled them home but that "was" home and I had nowhere to put it... It may have been a nice place to go diving, but it won't be again for a while since people are going to be moving in and not out. Oh, and don't live there, the management may be nice but the owners are SHADY. - MarieHuynh

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 think it has something to do with gathering secret information on DCR. Not that very much is very secret about you all, it's just that liberals tend to assume that Republicans are all making secret evil plans. —BrentLaabs
    • Cough, cough... goes the other way, too. ;) Ever hear a neo-con talk show ranting about the Islamic-facist threat or the Femi-nazis? (No idea if those are spelled right, not a topic I read about often. Heh.) —JabberWokky the Not Evil, Really

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

  • The covers are torn off because Borders is destroying them as unsold. The author and publisher don't get paid for them. They do not count as sold books - it's just more expensive than they are worth to ship them back. You may feel different, but IMO, if the author isn't getting paid and the publisher is being told they have been destroyed, the ethical thing is to respect the wishes of the author and the actions of the publisher and retailer. All authors, publishers and book stores do this with paperbacks and magazines. It's a standard aspect of the agreement between them. —JabberWokky
  • Do they always tear off some of the first pages, though? I thought it was just the cover, but that doesn't seem to be the case. Also, it appears the magazines are still in perfect order. No rippage. —MichaelGiardina
  • The amount of damage to the stripped out book/magazine varies. I worked for a major bookstore chain for 5 years and used to do all the receiving/stripping. While I was doing it, I used to try to be careful that the books and magazines were still in usable shape. I felt bad that it was all just going to end up in a landfill and hoped that some industrious diver could find them. After a couple of years, a new manager saw what I was doing and had me start tearing the magazines in half and also tearing out the first 20-30 pages of the paperbacks. You would be shocked to see the volume of product that even a mid size bookstore destroys just because it's too expensive to mail back the whole book. The employees weren't allowed to take any of the product it all went in the dumpster. It's not quite as bad as "book burnings"...but I still hate to see a book destroyed. —PeterRorvig
  • My boyfriend works at Borders and the Mgmt. discovered that books were being taken.They decided to remedy this by ripping the covers off the books and THEN ripping them in half. However, management has recently changed, so the book mutilation may no longer be a policy.—StephPolizzi
  • What time is best to go diving for Borders? I definitely would like to check out what kind of magazines are avaliable.—AliciaHall
  • I'm curious about what they do with old Bibles and other Holy Books. I mean, in theory, if Bibles were sitting on a shelf, and were really old, and not sold, would they dare destroy them? Do they ship them back in this case? Do they donate them?—MatthewTom
  • I currently work at Border's, and can answer your questions. The only books that are stripped are sci-fi, romance, and mystery books. Others are shipped back (including Bibles). The cover of these books are usually all that is torn off, but sometimes we grab a little too much. As for the publisher/author's wishes, it really is best to let these books go to the book farm up north. We have enough trouble with textbook publishers justifying costs, and if these books were recouped, it would only be a matter of time before other publishers caught on an started bringing up book prices.

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

Ithaca participates in a program called "Dump and Run" 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. — DChang

What are the best times for dumpster diving before and during moving day in Davis? — elizabeth2014

Anytime is best time! more stuff crops up after the move out day but I'm already seeing trucks full of obvious scavenging so people are getting out in force ahead of time Daubert