First Time Dumpster Diving “Haul”

It’s move-in season in Boston, and I walked past several overflowing alleyways and trash bins last weekend. Out of curiosity, I decided to see if there was anything I could salvage.

Dumpster diving is pretty stigmatized, but I don’t think it should be–especially since there’s perfectly good food/furniture/clothes out there. That said, I would feel self-conscious rummaging through trash in broad daylight on a busy street, so I was lucky to stumble upon a more secluded alleyway.

I was also lucky that there wasn’t enough room in the trash bins for all the stuff left behind. This meant that a lot of items were strewn across the space, in relatively clean bags or boxes. A common concern about dumpster diving is that it’s gross or unhygienic, but there’s just so much unwanted stuff during move-in season that a lot ends up on the streets, uncontaminated by rotting food.

I decided to make a “haul” video of all that I found, sort of as a parody on the fashion/beauty hauls, but also as a way to share all the useful things to be rescued. I was able to get free furniture for my new room, two pairs of shoes in my size (including the Adidas Originals above), and lots of packaged food. To see what else I got, and to hear me ramble, check out the video below.

Dumpster Diving Haul Video

And here’s more photos/reflections:

The overflowing alleyway 

I tried to go back the next day and shoot some clips at the alleyway, as I didn’t think of making a video until we’d left. Unfortunately, they’d already hauled away most of the trash! 🙁

My Favorite Things I Found Dumpster Diving

I was super excited to find these oxford heels, as they’re in great condition. I’ve never been much of a heels person, but these were pretty comfy given how chunky they are. I’m excited to wear these!

This armchair is a little gross, but I plan to take the coverings off and throw them in the laundry. This and the following piece of furniture I actually didn’t find in the alleyway, but either on the street, or by another dumpster.

This black shelf was basically new, and I quickly snagged it up as I’d been wanting more storage space.

I also found lots of edible food–including pumpkin pancake mix (the box was open, but the plastic packaging was still intact!), brown eggs that hadn’t expired, dark chocolate (it had unfortunately turned white/dried out, but was still edible), and some honey. The butter and Pam spray I’d also rescued from a friend’s old apartment–only the almond milk is from the store!

Decided to crush the chocolate sticks to make chocolate chunks.


What to Know Before You Go Dumpster Diving

If you’re feeling adventurous and want to rescue some stuff, here’s what I’d suggest, based on this experience:

  • If you’re apprehensive about rotting food or other gross things, try to find overflowing dumpsters with boxes/bags piled next to them. These tend to be left out recently and are less “gross.” Bring gloves regardless though!
  • Check when trash is picked up, and go diving the day before pickup day, so there’s more junk to sift through. Definitely also plan ahead for fall move-in and spring move-out, if you’re based in a college town–this is the best time to rummage around.
  • There are obviously risks associated with diving. Be sure to disinfect everything before using, and inspect your food carefully before eating.
  • Be respectful/aware of those who dumpster dive out of necessity, not just as a hobby. I personally don’t find it unethical for people to go diving for fun, as it’s no guarantee that those in need would’ve gone diving in the same location. That said, try to avoid diving in areas with a significant low-income population, as many residents may depend on dumpster diving for their livelihood. If you also find usable items that you personally don’t want, consider taking them anyways, cleaning them, and donating them.

Happy adventuring,

Other posts you might enjoy:

6 Ways to Reduce Waste While Eating Out
Wastetarianism: An Alternative to Veganism?

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  1. P.S. I recently rescued a compost bin from outside someone’s house on a road near me. They were getting rid of 3 massive ones and a bird table. I was going to buy a compost bucket (it’s a 30litre one) so I was dead chuffed!

  2. I loved watching your video!!! I reckon you must be right about the college students as it is a bizarre lot of things to throw away. I reckon someone was frantically last minute chucking stuff out of their apartment as they returned home. I remember having to leave a load of stuff still when I moved back from Bali but the majority of stuff my friends all had a pick from, even though I’d shipped lots back. Your shoes are lovely! What a result. I’d be really happy to find those. I’d totally pick things out of the bin if I thought they were clean. Someone chucked 3 bags of carrots in the bin at school today because they thought they were mouldy so I fished them straight out- the black marks were/are just surface level and can be peeled off- I’ve done it with carrots a million times. Well done for recycling and rescuing the waste! You made me happy!

    1. Aww thank you for the sweet comment Kezzie! And amazing to hear about your finds–carrots are always a useful veggie to have in the kitchen, and such luck for the compost bin!! I recently just picked up a compost bin since I got my roommates to sign up for a service that pulls it away like trash/recycling is. We don’t need the actual compost, so it’ll be donated to local farm initiatives, but I thought it would be good to get everyone in on composting 🙂

  3. Interesting how the ‘season’ can affect the sorts of items being left for trash! Angel had a janitorial job cleaning out the campus apartments at the end of the year when he was in college and collected a variety of nice things that were left behind for trash over a couple seasons of working there–a bike, a couple jackets, the backpack he still uses when we travel…never gone actual dumpster diving but my family has definitely picked up things off the side of the road many times…and we’ll never forget my cousin’s 13th birthday hayride when we went by a car that had just hit a deer and my uncle and Grandpa stopped the tractor to go ask about the deer and if the people who hit it wanted to keep it…birthday party ended up with Grandpa hauling the deer back to the barn and prepping it for butchering later for whatever meat could be salvaged. Sometimes I think old-school farming types are definitely the original “waste not” population…

    1. College campuses are probably the best place to find left behind stuff haha. I remember that students would just leave TONS of things in the common areas. Good for your Grandpa and making sure that food didn’t go to waste! I tasted deer once, when I was little, and I remember it being quite good, too!

  4. Definitely second the college campus comment here! I live near a small university and even they have tons of stuff just sitting on curbs around the end of May or early June. It’s crazy what those kids will just leave on the curb. But good work on the haul though!

    1. It really is wild how much stuff there is at the end of the year! I think it can just be difficult to transport everything for some students who live far away. I wish there could be some sort of free stuff festival since I’m sure most of this gets trashed.

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