We’ve been taking calls this week about the practice of “dumpster diving”. It’s been inspired by a woman in Dallas , Tiffany She’ree who quit her full-time job because her side-hustle of dumpster diving was earning her about $1000 a week.

She’ree, who goes by the handle dumpsterdivingmama on Instagram is a 32-year-old mother of four. She explains that she usually focuses on dumpsters that are behind mid-to-high end retailers like Ulta Beauty or Bed, Bath and Beyond because they throw out A LOT of stuff that’s still in very good condition.

The Dumpster Mama says the merchandise is SO good, in fact, that she’s able to sell it on a secondary market: mostly, garage sales.

I hate…HATE…seeing good things go to waste. She’ree says that she’ll find things that stores throw out because they’re slightly dinged, or were opened and returned or, in the case of clothes, items that are out of season. I think it’s a national shame, the amount of perfectly serviceable stuff that ends up in landfills. My main bugaboo is food (with the amount of edible food Americans scrape off their plates we could feed every hungry person in the world, if we had a magic food transporter). But She’ree doesn’t sell dumpster food. Her focus is on consumer goods, like the time she found over a thousand dollars of unopened cosmetics behind Ulta or the time she got a working $700 coffee machine out of a dumpster.

Here are the main arguments against what’s she’s doing:

“It’s illegal”.

RETORT: Actually, in the U.S. it is generally considered LEGAL to rummage through garbage left in public spaces.Interestingly, the same court ruling that allows police, paparazzi and P.I.’s to go through someone’s trash left out on the street also gives tacit approval for dumpster diving. In places that have local ordinances or on private property it’s much more of a gray area. Which brings us to…

“It’s trespassing!”

RETORT: If it’s on private property then, yes, you should probably ask for permission which will likely be denied. If it’s actually in a public space there might be a sign that says “no foraging” or “no dumpster diving” but a sign on a dumpster isn’t the same as a law or even an ordinance. It should go without saying that a dumpster with a lock on it shouldn’t be broken into because that would be destruction of property along with any other applicable laws (such as trespassing).

“It’s unsanitary!”

RETORT: Some of it is, for sure. But dumpster divers (who prefer the term “freegan”, by the way) say it is very common, even normal, to find valuable items still in the packaging. Of course, if someone catches you doing it, you are definitely going to look like a walking disease vector to them. You’ve got to have a tough skin because the “ick” factor comes with the territory.

I will allow that I think it would be unethical to sell something rummaged from a dumpster without making that clear to potential buyers.

“You’re stealing from the stores!”

RETORT: Are you, though? If it’s in the dumpster it’s headed to the landfill. Again, trash isn’t generally considered “property” if it’s in public spaces. If it still has value, the store shouldn’t throw it out. If they’re worried about someone reselling their inventory, I would say the people buying perfume at a garage sale probably can’t afford your retail price anyway.

More than anything else, I’m a believer in capitalism who also thinks our society is ENTIRELY too wasteful. If pristine or at least serviceable products can end up being used instead of in a landfill, I’m all for it. If a person willing to do some dirty work without breaking any laws or doing anything unethical can make a living, I’m for that too. More power, dumpsterdivingmama!

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