5 Dumpster Diving Rules To Find Free Stuff

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

Dumpster diving is lucrative in Canada and the United States because someone else’s junk is a treasure to another.

Today, let’s explore the top 11 items common to find while dumpster diving, along with the rules and tools of the trade.

Dumpster Diving Canada USA

Dumpster Diving Is Like A Treasure Hunt

You know, there are a lot of negative connotations with dumpster diving, and I always had issues with this myself.

As I’ve gotten older and the US economy has gotten tougher, I have learned to be more resourceful.

Of course, not only that, but my husband has pleasantly surprised me over time with some fantastic dumpster finds.

This is a regular feature on my blog, Lil’ Suburban Homestead’s site, where we share our latest dumpster diving finds, which has become popular.  

I mean, Who Doesn’t Like Free?

We even have our family members in disbelief of the great finds we have found until they have been out with us when it happened.

Although I know how to dive, I will not claim to be the dumpster diving diva.

Keep Your Eyes Open For Free Stuff

While I love to join in on dumpster diving adventures, I am often not as mobile because of my job.  

I work for the school system in Coastal North Carolina, so I’m trapped in a building all day.

My husband finds excellent dumpster diving finds, but he is the one who taught me some of the main components of dumpster diving.

My husband drives for his job and keeps his eyes open when he’s out and about the town. 

Rarely has he spotted something he has needed to bring his truck back after working to collect.

Most of the time, it is stuff that is just right in front of him, or he could be having a lunch break and spot these items.

Top 11 Items You Can Find In A Dumpster

  1. Clothing
  2. Health and Beauty Make-up
  3. Food and Coupons
  4. Electronics
  5. Music CD’s, Cassette Tapes, DVD’s
  6. Books
  7. Raw Materials or Building Materials are great for renovations
  8. Furniture and Appliances
  9. Baby Stuff
  10. Toys
  11. Tools

Gear Up For Dumpster Diving

If you plan on dumpster diving, whether you are going for a walk around your neighbourhood looking in garbage bins or large recyclable and industrial dumpsters, you’ll need important gear.

As you may already guess, dumpster diving can be gross and dangerous.

There are a few essential items that you will want to bring, especially if you are hunting for dumpster diving treasures at night.

  1. Long Sleeve Shirt or Jacket
  2. Other appropriate seasonal apparel
  3. Thick Gloves
  4. Flashlight
  5. Heavy material bag or rolling cart to add goods too
  6. Running shoes or safety boots or shoes
  7. Knife or another cutting tool, Nifty Nabbers

Top Rules For Finding Good Stuff Dumpster Diving

Nifty Nabbers for dumpster diving
  1. Be consistent and check your favorite dumpsters frequently.
  2. Always be aware of your surroundings.
  3. Act fast if you see something on the side of the road; grab it up it may be gone the next time you drive by.
  4. Look for the potential in every item. For example, my husband found some display ladders in a mall dumpster, and he had no idea what we would do with them, but he grabbed them anyway. He turned one into a shabby chic pot rack, which I love, and the other is a decorative ladder still leaning up on our bookshelves.
  5. Own some nifty nabberswhich are extremely handy as my husband has been able to reach items he might not usually have gotten.
  6. You have to be safe and watch out for broken glass, sharp metal, and other potentially dangerous objects.
  7. Always be aware of your surroundings and proceed with caution.

Our Dumpster Finds

Fishing reels
Fishing reels dumpster diving finds

Just look at these fishing reels. For a few of them, my husband had to order minor parts, but most reel repairs have averaged under $3.00 a reel.

However, he found enough he could swap parts in most cases.

Fireplace Log Basket
Fireplace Log Basket dumpster diving finds

The second item is a fireplace log basket we needed one of these, and the timing was perfect as the cold weather was settling in.

1984 olympic silver dollar or medal
1984 Olympic silver dollar dumpster diving finds

A 1984 Olympic silver dollar is one of a two-piece set, but we did not find the other piece, so because of that, it is only worth about $40 on eBay.

Japanese stainless steel salt and pepper shakers
Japanese stainless steel salt and pepper shakers dumpster diving finds

The last item is a beautiful set of Japanese stainless steel salt and pepper shakers with some scroll-work It is very elegant looking!

I hope you enjoyed a tour of some of our fantastic dumpster diving finds.

They all add up to huge savings; besides, it’s an adventure.

I never know what my husband is going to come home with.

Where To Go Dumpster Diving

If you are looking for good places to dumpster dive in Canada, I’d stick to public property, but many people locate awesome finds all over the city.

  • Apartment buildings or complexes
  • Grocery Stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Side-walk
  • Big Box Stores
  • Downtown
  • Restaurants
  • We mostly find beer cans and bottles on the side of the road and in ditches *.

We have found one of the best places to go dumpster diving at local or provincial parks, where beer cans, beer bottles, and wine bottles are often located.

Dumpster Diving in Canada

I’ve always been interested to hear about dumpster diving, as I didn’t know much about what happens behind the scenes.

Although we shouldn’t be dumpster diving in several provinces in Canada according to the Trespass Property Act.

For example, if you go to Best Buy dumpster diving and it’s on private property, you may be in big trouble.

Remember that surveillance cameras are all over Ontario, especially at businesses.

Be a SMART dumpster-diving Citizen.

You will want to avoid going to the private property to dumpster dive at all costs.

If, for instance, there are bins on the road or sidewalks, this is public property, and you can look inside.

Always leave the area you search in the same shape, if not better, and never cut any locks or break into anything.

If you get caught, you may end up living in a dumpster behind bars, if you know what I mean, or with a big fine from the police.

It’s interesting to learn what others do worldwide, as in Karen’s experience from the USA to Britain, where dumpster diving is illegal.

Free Good Weekend

In our Ontario community, once or twice a year, we have a free goods weekend where homeowners can put free stuff out to the curb, and anyone can pick it up for free.

We’ve picked up beer cans from garbage bins in the park, on the ground, or in recycle bins from the few neighbours around us that we know and are friends with.

Free money is hard to turn a blind eye to; it’s like finding coins or dollar bills on the ground.

Would you leave a $20 bill in a garbage bin or on the ground?

Probably not; that’s what I thought.

Although our neighbours wouldn’t give a hoot, someone you don’t know might, and some cities might have by-laws for this, so it’s always best to check with your city hall.

In our city, we can take an item typically placed on the curbside with a “Free Sign,” which I like to call curb watching for free stuff.

Alternatively, use online freecycle or free stuff Facebook groups, where people post free stuff for porch or curb pickup.

As Karen points out, the opposite stands true in the USA. You have to be much more careful about grabbing stuff from the side of the road.

Sometimes, homeowners do not intend for it to be picked up, but the dumpster implies it is garbage.

Food Waste and Dumpster Diving

Regardless of any laws, it happens in our cities, all around us, whether we want to accept it.

Whether one gets caught is an entirely different story, but a chance many are willing to take.

I agree that too much food is wasted; sometimes, it’s good food. If you plan on dumpster diving for food, take caution.

We’ve often bought reduced items on the cheap rack, and there is nothing wrong with them, and they likely hit the dumpster by evening if no one buys them.

Related: Food Waste In Canada

This is where freegans may step in.

What Are Freegans?

Although I’ve never met a freegan, I’d be interested in talking to one to hear their views to find out what life is like. 

It’s a shame with all the starving people in this world, and too bad the food can’t be donated.

Lastly, dumpster diving identity theft should be a big concern for everyone, so if you toss anything with personal information, SHRED IT!

Discussion: Have you ever found something you picked up in or around a dumpster? Can you dumpster dive where you live?

Please leave your comments below, and thanks for stopping by CBB.


Guest Post By: Karen Lynn-Stop by our Lil’ Suburban Homestead any time.

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