This kind of diving just takes a bit of patience, good timing and an ability to identify the treasure among the trash.
It's become quite a movement, the dumpster diving. More and more people are recognizing that very cool stuff is tossed in the trash.
There seem to be several types of divers. First and most unfortunately, there are folks who scrounge dumpsters for food because they have no other resource.
Next, there are folks like me, who pick dumpsters in search of one thing (me: packing materials and cardboard boxes), and find really cool stuff in the process.
There is an ever-increasing number of people who dive the dumpsters, and some are directing what they find to people who really need it. My friend Sue recently told me about a radio show she'd heard, which was dedicated solely to the sharing of dumpster diving stories. One woman who called the show said she dove dumpsters in affluent neighborhoods on a regular basis, and gave what she found to single moms, shelters, other folks in need.
Other people troll dumpsters to replenish their wardrobes. A fairly recent Today show segment spotlighted a woman who consistently finds designer couture in the New York City dumpsters she frequents. She did have a picking protocol; she wouldn't get anything out of a dumpster that she couldn't reach. And she'd found some amazing items.
It's true. Some dive out of necessity, some out of curiosity and others have found a comfortable niche that's filled by what they find in dumpsters.
There's even a word for folks who regularly dive.
They're called Freegans.
Freeganism is an actual movement. Freegans are sharply focused on a strictly anti-consumerism philosophy, relying on dumpster diving, gardening, trading and (gasp) sharing to survive.
There's a ton of information on line about Freeganism, but suffice it to say that Freegans are to environmentalism as vegans are to vegetarianism. Freegans want their footprints on this crazy planet to be almost imperceptible, and one of the many ways they keep it light is by culling through dumpsters.
Snagging other people's dumpster discards is a very peaceful, sustaining act, really.
But every yin has its yang; every party has its pooper.
For instance, if you get caught dumpster diving in the ultra-progressive city of Boulder, Colorado, you'll be fined $1,000 or sent to jail.
They say this fine/jail consequence for dumpster divers has been created to keep people safe. Apparently the CU Boulder police department would prefer that I climb one of the nearby mountains or local Flatirons instead of a city dumpster.
Dumpster diving is one of the most tactile, interactive ways to recycle. But dangerous?
Safety is the last thing on the minds of most divers, whether they dive for fun, for profit, for others, for fashion or to add a plank to the platform of a socially conscious life.
Whatever the motivation, divers understand that if nothing's ventured, nothing's gained.
But for your safety and the safety of others, make a path around Boulder.