The Do’s and Don’ts of Dumpster Diving

The Do's and Don'ts of Dumpster Diving

I’ve done a little researching and have come up with the some of the do’s and don’ts of “dumpster diving”.

As it relates to survival techniques, “dumpster diving” is an effective urban foraging technique.  dumpster diving shouldn’t only be limited to the scope of food.  Furniture, clothing, cooking implements, and virtually any item in working condition that one might need can be utilized if not re-purposed.


Living in New York City is great if you want free furniture, however this past year I’ve held off from procuring furniture based on the bed bug problem that has plagued the Boroughs in the last couple of years.  It seems to be dying down in the media at least for the moment.

For furniture and clothing your main health and safety concerns are bedbugs.

Make yourself aware of bed bug infestations in your area by contacting your local DOH(department of health).  If your not sure about the clothing or furniture item, wrap in in plastic so the item is air tight.  Shipping sheet plastic is great for this.  Leave it wrapped for for 6 months at least.  That should suffocate the bed bugs.  A clothing item can be left in the freezer for a couple of days then washed and dried thoroughly.

I’ve picked up on street corner trash cans complete music sets of Mozart, Chopin, as well as many other music collections. I’ve “inherited” book shelves, records, cd’s, computer software, disc drives, and tons of classic books.  I’ve seen on several occasions this year upright pianos in the dumpster area of my building complex.  They were in bad shape, but probably could have been salvaged.

Picking up food out of a dumpster is a little more risky.  Proceed to do this at your own risk.

One way “freegans” try to limit the risk is by not taking any food that is not individually wrapped or in it’s own container.  If it is in it’s own container make sure the expiration date has has passed or you could develop botulism which is sometimes fatal. Inspect the items for mold or other signs of decay.  In terms of bread the mold can just be cut off and the remaining eaten with no worries.  Usually your taste buds will let you know if something should be eaten or not.

While a person reading this at their five-star restaurant may turn up their nose at this, they should remember that many people develop “stomach flu” from eating at high class restaurants every day.

According to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from surveillance data and reports form 1990 to 2000, case fatality of botulism was a little over 6 people.  Apparently out of 263 cases of botulism, 103 of the cases occurred in Alaska and were attributed to traditional Alaskan Native foods.

“Freegans” engage in “Dumpster Diving” on a regular basis not necessarily for survival but to make a state about the ability to be self-sufficient.  For some it is a dynamic meditation on thankfulness.  How truthfully are we thankful for the resources in our lives?

For some the practice is a statement about paradoxical existence of hunger in a highly modernized society.  How can hunger still exist when perfectly good food is thrown away to rot?

So this holiday if cash is short make a trip to your local dumpster, if not for survival, for an exercise in thankfulness and sustainability.


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