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.
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