Garbage picking

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A person dumpster diving
The result of dumpster diving in Linköping, Sweden.

Garbage picking is the practice of sifting through commercial or residential waste to find items that have been discarded by their owners, but that may prove useful to the garbage picker. Garbage picking may take place in dumpsters or in landfills. When in dumpsters, the practice is called dumpster diving in American English and skipping in British English.[1][2] Dumpster diving is viewed as an effective urban foraging technique.[3] Dumpster divers will forage dumpsters for items such as clothing, furniture, food, and similar items in good working condition.[3]

Etymology and alternative names[edit]

The dumpster diving term originates from the best-known manufacturer of commercial trash bins, Dempster, who use the trade name "Dumpster" for their bins,[4] and the fanciful image of someone leaping head first into a dumpster as if it were a swimming pool. In practice, the size and design of most dumpsters makes it possible to retrieve many items from the outside of dumpsters without having to "dive" into them.

The practice of dumpster diving can additionally be referred to as bin-diving,[5] containering,[6] D-mart,[7] dumpstering,[8] tatting, skipping[9] or "recycled" food.

Furthermore, the term "binner" is often used to describe individuals who collect recyclable materials for their deposit value. In Australia, garbage picking is called "skip dipping".


A man rummaging through a skip at the back of an office building in Central London

The organization Same Day Dumpsters has written, "Traditionally, most people who resorted to dumpster-diving were forced to do so out of economic necessity, but this is not the case today."[10]

Arguments against dumpster diving often focus on the health and cleanliness implications of people rummaging in trash. This exposes the dumpster divers to potential health risks, and, especially if the dumpster diver does not return the non-usable items to their previous location, may leave trash scattered around. Divers can also be seriously injured or killed by garbage collection vehicles; in January 2012, in La Jolla, Swiss-American gentleman Alfonso de Bourbon was killed by a truck while dumpster diving.[14] Further, there are also concerns around the legality of taking items that may still technically belong to the person who threw them away (or to the waste management operator), and whether the taking of some items like discarded documents is a violation of privacy.

Discarded billing records may be used for identity theft. As a privacy violation, discarded medical records as trash led to a $140,000 penalty against Massachusetts billing company Goldthwait Associates and a group of pathology offices in 2013[15] and a $400,000 settlement between Midwest Women’s Healthcare Specialists and 1,532 clients in Kansas City in 2014.[16]


Legal status[edit]

Since dumpsters are usually located on private premises, divers may occasionally get in trouble for trespassing while dumpster diving, though the law is enforced with varying degrees of rigor. Dumpster diving is often not prohibited by law. Abandonment of property is another principle of law that applies to recovering materials via dumpster diving.

Police searches of dumpsters as well as similar methods are also generally not considered violations; evidence seized in this way has been permitted in many criminal trials. The doctrine is not as well established in regards to civil litigation.

Companies run by private investigators specializing in dumpster diving have emerged as a result of the need for discreet, undetected retrieval of documents and evidence for civil and criminal trials. Private investigators have also written books on "P.I. technique" in which dumpster diving or its equivalent "wastebasket recovery" figures prominently.

Notable instances[edit]

In popular culture[edit]


Television programs[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Lewycka, Marina (2 July 2009). "So, I'm a skip addict - avocado bath suite, anyone?". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 2009-10-31. 
  2. ^ "Issue 561". SchNEWS. 22 September 2006. Retrieved 2009-11-11. 
  3. ^ a b Admin. "The Do's and Don'ts of Dumpster Diving". Wilderness Survival Techniques. Retrieved 9 March 2012. 
  4. ^ Erin McKean, ed. (2005). The New Oxford American Dictionary (second ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-517077-6. 
  5. ^ Renton, Alex (August 17, 2007). "Why I love bin diving". London: Retrieved November 28, 2009. 
  6. ^ "Dumpster diving stays on trend in Germany". Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  7. ^ Niki D'Andrea (2012-08-30). "Dumpster Dining: For Freegans, Eating Garbage Is Getting Downright Trendy - Page 1 - News - Phoenix". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  8. ^ Colon, Dalia (April 11, 2008). "One man's trash is another man's ... lunch ≤or software treat≥". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved November 28, 2009. 
  9. ^ "Skipping Diner". 2010. Retrieved 2012-09-11. 
  10. ^ Jules. "Are you really interested in Dumpster Diving?". Same Day Dumpsters. Retrieved 12 March 2012. 
  11. ^ Jackson, Emily (2010-07-28). "Vancouver fireworks a boon for city". The Vancouver Sun. Retrieved 2010-08-04. 
  12. ^ Sachs, Andrea (7 November 2004). "Get Your Mind Into the Gutter". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 January 2010. 
  13. ^ Allison, Cyndeth (8 May 2007). "Dumpster Diving". North Denver News. 
  14. ^ Schwab, Dave (11 January 2012). "Victim in alleyway dumpster death identified as Alfonso de Bourbon, 83". La Jolla Light. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ Harrison, Jeff (18 November 2004). "U.S. Wastes Half of Food Produced". Retrieved 2010-03-07. 
  18. ^ Ha, Tanya (6 November 2003). "E-waste". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2007-06-11. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ Lawrence, Robyn Griggs (6 May 2011). "College Graduation Means Great Dumpster Diving". Retrieved 2012-11-07. 
  21. ^ "TENNANT CO. v. ADVANCE MACH. CO., INC. 355 N.W.2d 720 (1984)". 
  22. ^ "Theft Act 1968". The National Archives. 
  23. ^ "Archiv". Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  24. ^ Cory Doctorow. "Wired 5.09: Dumpster Diving". Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  25. ^ Auteur: Arne Franck. "De Standaard: Arrogante houding houdt voedseldief in de cel". Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  26. ^ "Update Skipper in de Brugse gevangenis". Indymedia NL. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  27. ^ "Lawaaidemo voor Ollie aan de poorten van de Burgse gevangenis". 2009-03-05. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  28. ^ "Classic MMOG Raised From the Dead by Past Players - Slashdot". 2005-06-21. Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  29. ^ Greenwell, Megan (2006-08-16). "Diving for Dinner -".<!. Retrieved 2009-05-07. 
  30. ^ Saner, Emine (2009-12-22). "Skipping: is there anything wrong with taking the food that supermarkets throw away?". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  31. ^ Malcolm Walker (2013-12-04). "Why Iceland wanted the bin theft case dropped". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  32. ^ CrimethInc. contributor (2001). "Evasion". CrimethInc. Retrieved November 7, 2014. A 288 page novel-like narrative, Evasion is one person's travelogue of thievery and trespassing across the country, evading not only arrest, but also the 40-hour workweek and hopeless boredom of modern life. The journey documents a literal and metaphorical reclamation of an individual's life and the spaces surrounding them—scamming, squatting, dumpstering, train hopping and shoplifting... 
  33. ^ Taborelli, Silvia (2008). "Surfing the Waste: A Musical Documentary about Dumpster Diving". NISI MASA, European Network of Young Cinema. Retrieved November 7, 2014. Liz, Mike, Allison, Owain and Alden are five youngsters living in Montreal. They dance, sing and play in this upbeat short film which tells about "dumpster diving". It may sound like a sport, but it's actually a way of life. 
  34. ^ Aflalo, Paul (November 25, 2008). "Surfing the Waste, making it's World Premiere at IDFA 2008". Indyish. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  35. ^ "One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure". Reno Gazette-Journal. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  36. ^ Fortenbury, Jon (May 26, 2011). "Diving Team: Come on in, the Dumpster's fine". NewsReview. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  37. ^ WorldCat (2007). "I Love Trash". OCLC. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  38. ^ Skyfest (2007). "Feature Documentary: I Love Trash". Skyfest Film and Script Festival. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  39. ^ Skyfest Film & Script Festival (2007). "Winners SkyFest I". Green Planet Films. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  40. ^ Seifert, Jeremy (2010). "Dive!". Compeller Pictures. Retrieved November 7, 2014. Inspired by a curiosity about our country's careless habit of sending food straight to landfills, the multi award-winning documentary DIVE! follows filmmaker Jeremy Seifert and friends as they dumpster-dive in the back alleys and gated garbage receptacles of Los Angeles' supermarkets. In the process, they salvage thousands of dollars worth of good, edible food... Winner of 21 Awards by Festivals Worldwide. 
  41. ^ Mallis, Alex (2012). "Spoils: Extraordinary Harvest". Analect Films. Retrieved November 7, 2014. Emulating the tradition of American Direct Cinema, filmmaker Alex Mallis captures intimate portraits of the divers, illuminating a practice as old as agriculture. Mallis' fly-on-the-wall access to these Brooklynites bring us along for a journey through the culture of dumpster diving, offering an unvarnished glimpse into one night of urban harvest. 
  42. ^ Lacey, Stephen (November 21, 2012). "Spoils: Film Documents Americans Who Reap An 'Extraordinary Harvest' From Waste". ThinkProgress. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 
  43. ^ A WG Film Production (2008). "A Recycled Road Trip". Retrieved November 7, 2014. A group of five diverse people have challenged themselves to drive 2000 km down the east coast of Australia in a veggie oil powered van, living on nothing but waste. With zero money but plenty of passion they put both themselves and society to the test. 
  44. ^ "From Dumpster To Dinner Plate". 2011. Retrieved November 7, 2014. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]