Dumpster diving, known as skipping in the UK, consists of rummaging in skips and garbage containers for food and other useful items. The legal situation varies across countries, but many freegans make it a key element in their lifestyle. Sometimes food is recovered, but at other times repairable items and perfectly usable ones are found.
What is a dumpster
A dumpster is an American term for a waste disposal container. Therefore, a dumpster diver is a person who rummages in waste containers to find usable items. Some people practise dumpster diving to find articles to sell on, though they make a poor living from it. Others do it as part of a crusade against waste or because they see many useful items, such as computers or furniture being thrown out.
This varies across countries. In some countries, rubbish is considered to be in the public domain, but in Britain, it still remains the property of the person throwing it out or, when collected by the council, it becomes council property.
This means that anyone who rummages in a skip and takes goods away commits theft, unless they have the owner's consent. Most owners, though, are disinterested, most grant permission, and few police officers are bothered with this issue.
However, the problem would arise if confidential material, such as documents, were to be taken. Rummaging in dustbins for documents has resulted in arrest.
Freegans are green activists who are opposed to food waste and who live on scavenged food. The way they do this is to rummage in skips outside restaurants, supermarkets and shops to pick perfectly useful food, often still in its packaging, which is being thrown possibly because it is past sell-by date. Supermarkets take measures to prevent this, but it still goes on. Other people are occasional dumpster divers, picking what they can when they see it.
Wood, such as old decking or broken pallets, thrown into skips can sometimes be used on allotments to make raised beds or as firewood in wood-burners.
However, it is often furniture that can be scavenged. High-quality domestic furniture is sometimes found, but office furniture is not uncommon.
Computers, though, are a major area for dumpster divers. Many perfectly usable computers and printers are thrown into skips as they are replaced by companies. These are often taken by skippers and used.
Other dumpster divers are adept at repair work. Some discarded equipment can easily be repaired by a skilled person..