Trash to Treasure: Students find amusement in dumpster diving

By Andrea Huber 2008

Each year in America, we waste 96 billion pounds of good food, most of which could be eaten or given to the needy. Because we have been wasting food and other material things, there is an interesting student development in the Cedar Valley — dumpster diving.

For those who do not understand the concept of dumpster diving, it’s a technique of scrounging through dumpsters for things you can salvage such as furniture, food, clothes, electronics and virtually anything else you can think of.

Though there are no real “real” tools for dumpster diving, it is helpful to bring along leather gloves, anti-bacterial soap, a stepping stool of some sort, flashlight (if you’re planning on diving after dark), a broom or other handled item for poking and moving things toward you and a grocery or garbage bag to hold your findings.

Before diving, you need to find out if it’s legal in the area you’re planning on diving in. In Cedar Falls, it is legal to dumpster dive depending on the store, and in Waterloo, there is no ordinance against dumpster diving at all. If the dumpster you wish to rummage through is locked or there is a sign that says “No Trespassing,” abide by these rules and go to your next destination. It’s also a good idea not to dive in compactors, which are dumpsters attached to a building with no visible opening.

One thing that many divers fear is being confronted by employees. If you are confronted, drop whatever you’ve found and leave peacefully without arguing. There is no need to cause a scene, and there are plenty of other dumpsters to dive in.

Also, it may seem like the logical thing to dive at odd hours of the night, but really, it will only make you look all the more suspicious. Instead, try to find a time that works for you within reasonable hours.

“I usually dive for things I can use or put on my wall. The best thing I’ve gotten so far is a neon palm tree lamp, but I gave it to my friend,” junior Luke Horan said.

“The best time to dive is late summer or early fall because you don’t want what you’re finding to be hot and stinky,” said Joseph Higgins, a freshman at Peet Junior High. “Some of the best things I’ve found are a DVD player and a few X-Box games.”

Although it seems that dumpster diving has become the new craze, there are sill some who consider it a bad idea. “I think it’s disgusting. There could be anything in the dumpster, and it might not be safe,” sophomore Amanda Traetow said.

If we stopped being so wasteful, we could eliminate 96 billion pounds of unused food each year. Until we manage this, dumpster diving is an entertaining way to salvage some these otherwise lost items.

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