There’s something about a dumpster that is so tempting for those of us in the know. Over the years I’ve found furniture, moving boxes, electronics and lots of other free goodies by skimming the tops of these massive garbage cans.
But The Learning Channel’s hot show “Extreme Couponing” clued me into a new reason to dive deeper: Coupons! Lots of newspaper advertising fliers end up in dumpsters, particularly paper recycling dumpsters. Sometimes you can even score a mass-mail coupon packet.
Of course, it takes a bit of finesse to make the most of your diving adventure, so here are some basic rules.
1. Check Out Local Laws
Not every municipality allows dumpster diving and others may simply discourage it. While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled trash is public domain -- otherwise the paparazzi would be out of business -- you’ll want to check and make sure your finds won’t be confiscated by prowling police or angry merchants.
2. Keep It On The Down-low
Locate dumpsters that aren’t highly visible or dive at times when there’s little traffic, like after business hours. You might also check neighborhood alleys on recycling day.
PaperRetriever.com lists recycling dumpsters by city and zip code, so check here first. (Why anyone would wish to compile such a list is beyond me, but it is incredibly handy.)
3. Look For Juicy Finds
While PaperRetriever lists all the available recycling dumpsters, its website doesn’t provide a gold star to let you know which ones are hot and which ones are not. Paper dumpsters in plain view tend to receive more trash than those buried in dark alleys. Besides, diving here can be safer. Office buildings also offer clean dumpsters with lots of newspaper trash. Keep a list of those dumpsters that tend to trash newspapers.
4. Gear Up
Obviously you don’t want to wear heels when you jump in, but it’s also wise to wear clothes that can handle stains. A pair of work gloves will protect your hands from goo and sharp edges. Wear shoes that cover all of your feet and ankles. In other words, be prepared for any random slop.
5. Bring the Right Equipment
Bring a stool or milk crate to provide a step up so you’re not leaping around to enter the dumpster. Garbage bags, particularly kitchen-trash sized, and small boxes are excellent ways to store your coupons.
If you’re planning on diving after dark, bring a flashlight so you can discern treasures from trash. If you’re squeamish about climbing in, equip yourself with one of those long poles with grabbers on the end. You can usually find them at drugstores that cater to an older clientele.
6. Move Fast
Don’t spend too much time at one dumpster. Just get in and get out so there’s less chance of being caught. Know the coupon fliers that have been published that week and where they’ve been stuffed into the paper, so you can avoid sifting through massive quantities of newsprint.
7. Give Unto Others
Remember to recycle coupons and pages you don’t need. You never know who will be pluming the depths of your recycle bin.