Diving for "the gold" (into a dumpster)
Written, Submitted By Sean Smith
The side door slid open with a slam.  Ross Maddux
peaked through to see the treasures on the inside.  Small,
white snowflakes blew in around him coating the clear bags
within.  He pulled himself through the tiny doorway and
began sorting. Within minutes, four large trash bags lay on
the outside of the dumpster ready to be carried to the car.  
“Put your arms beneath and carry them so the bags don’t
break,” exclaimed Ross.  Mountains of oranges and apples
would tumble through the snow like little skiers down a
hillside if that happened.  The manager would come out
and scream in anger while we ran to the car hidden from
view on the other side of the road.  Ross was careful to
avoid any conflict with the storeowners or the dumpster
would be ruined for all future divers.  
The bags were thrown on the table upon entering the
house.  Ross prepared the fridge, removing all the old food
to make way for the new.  The first couple bags were
ripped open, the bad fruit sorted and thrown out. “It’s
much better in the winter,” explained Ross.  “In the
summer, the fruit sweats.  Everything is slimy and gross.    
It’s like throwing food in an oven.”  In the winter however,
the dumpster was a fridge.  The food would be preserved
for days, no different from in the store itself.   
The findings themselves were a dream.  Besides the fruit,
which filled two large trash bags, Ross pulled out a large
chocolate cake, a delicious almond pie, six loaves of
bread, countless wedges of Havarti cheese, hamburger
meat, filet minion, a bag of chocolate cookies, and a whole
chicken.  Within a day, homemade guacamole would be
served along with pizza, fruit smoothies, and for dessert,
the almond pie; all this in a house of college students living
on a budget with bank accounts barely breaking a
No longer it seems is shopping done simply done only
within the store, but behind it, inside the large, green walls
of a dumpster.  There are those who have discovered that
food thrown out is not necessarily food no good.  
Why pay for something when it sits unused and wasted in a
dumpster, ready for the taking?  “I live very comfortably
for very cheap,” says Sarah D., a college grad and avid
dumpster diver. People like Sarah and Ross don’t see a
reason to ignore an opportunity for a free and delicious
meal like those found in a dumpster.
Ross Maddux has been dumpster diving for over a year.  
He used to work as a delivery driver far from home. “It
was the only way I could justify driving that far,” explains
Ross.  At the time gas still cost over four dollars a gallon.  
The money made on a delivery driver’s salary barely
covered the fuel needed to do the work.  “I would stop by
the dumpster behind Trader Joe’s everyday after work,”
he says.  “I saved a lot of money, and I was eating
healthier too.”  
The majority of what you find in a dumpster is fruit.  During
a dumpster diving experience, one is likely to bring home
bags of it.  “You get a blender and you make smoothies to
use it all up, and suddenly you’re eating 5 to 6 servings of
fruit a day,” Ross says.  “I never used to buy produce.  
Dumpster diving forces me to eat a lot of fruit cause I get
so much.”    
Ross has never been kicked off a store’s property for
dumpster diving either.  “It’s a law in Columbus, Ohio that
if the dumpster’s open, you’re allowed to go through it,”
Ross explains.  “Most stores can get you for trespassing
though.”  Ross has had friends who have gotten caught.  
One even had a sheriff show up and escort him off the
property he was diving through.    
“If someone were to get sick or injured, it would end up
costing the store a lot of money,” explains Sarah D.  Sarah
has been dumpster diving for years however she calls it
‘trash shopping’.  Her kitchen is full of food obtained from
one person’s trash or another.  She obtains used furniture
and books as well.  “My favorite items are the projectors,”
she says when asked about the best thing she’s ever gotten
out of the trash.  “I watch movies on my wall.”
Sarah finds ‘trash shopping’ to be an incredibly lucrative
experience with only minimal dangers.  “There’s always the
danger of getting sick,” she says.  “You can cut mold off a
bell pepper but with meat it’s a bit harder.  If you dumpster
at home furnishing stores, you have to deal with broken
glass throughout the entire dumpster, which is not always
fun but great for art projects.”  She recommends always
bringing a flashlight and of course wearing gloves if you’re
going to go yourself.  “And always leave everything as you
found it, no messes,” she emphasizes.  “Also don’t take
bags with tons of napkins or empty cups in them.  They
tend to be regular store trash, not the inventory trash.”  
“Recently,” Sarah explains, “we had a little dumpster
party.  I got to the regular location with a dumpster diving
virgin and someone who hadn’t in a while and ran into a
couple of friends as well as two guys I didn’t know.  They
broke out the dumpstered cider beer and everything was
put on a table near the dumpster and we all sorted.”  
Dumpster parties like these are not a rare occurrence.  
Ross once found a full 24 pack of beer.  “It was called
‘Simpler Times Beer’,” he says mockingly.  “It was an
instant party.  Friends came over.  They brought their
cousins.  Everyone was having a great time.”
“There’s a community behind the act, where the initiation is
minimizing waste and sharing,” Sarah explains.  “It’s a
lifestyle of making and trading, and it also takes the waste
and gives it a good home.”  Of course there’s always the
dangers, but if the pros and cons were to be listed, its no
doubt the good would outweigh the bad.  
The experience itself is worth doing.  You throw yourself in
a dumpster.  Your heart races at the thought of the manager
or some other employee coming out and finding you.  Your
adrenaline pumps with excitement as you find that first a
bag full of expensive bread and cheese galore.  Quickly the
bags are thrown in your car and you drive off.  “When you
get home, it’s like inspecting Halloween candy but
messier,” explains Sarah, and for days afterwards you have
new food to experience.  Ross experiments with his
ingredients to use them up.  He’s become a much better
cook through dumpster diving, and the food is always
“My life has changed dramatically since I’ve been diving,”
says Ross.  “I eat better, I dine out less, and I save
Sweden and Germany
Dumpster contents is property of
the owner, taking items is theft.
Theft Act of 1968 declares
dumpster diving theft.
Tresspass to Property Act allows
property owners to ban anyone from
their premises for any reason.
United States
California v. Greenwood declared
there is no common law expectation
of privacy for discarded materials.
Dumpster diving is
legal, by a 2000 law.
Although some global
"dumpster diving" related laws
exist, most are rarely enforced
©Copyright 2009 Out Of The Blue.
All rights reserved.
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