Dumpster Diving

9 Jan

Seems like dumpster diving is a hot topic lately – I’ve been getting a lot of emails about it, and hearing that many groups in Winnipeg are going out to do this. At first I thought people were joking, but people actually had pictures of themselves doing it, and what they had found. So, what’s my advice on dumpster diving – DON’T DO IT!

Did you know dumpster diving is illegal? Blue boxes, large bins in parking lots, my garbage can – doesn’t matter. It’s all covered under this city bylaw – Bylaw Solid Waste 1340/76 – here it is, direct from the city of Winnipeg:

UNAUTHORIZED HANDLING OF SOLID WASTES  13. (a) No person other than the owner or agent thereof, unless lawfully authorized to do  so, shall pick over, interfere with, disturb, remove or scatter any solid wastes howsoever placed for collection. (b) All solid waste collected by the City, upon collection, and all refuse deposited at the disposal sites shall become the property of the City and no person shall separate, carry off or dispose of same except as authorized by the designated employee.

People found doing this will be fined – anything collected from a bin, dumpster, garbage can etc. is considered stolen property! So be careful of where you are getting coupons, items, whatever from – you don’t want to be receiving stolen property!

The city is very worried about identity theft – imagine how much personal information these dumpster divers can be collecting – remember to always shred your personal documents. Since a lot of people go to the big bins at the stores they can also be collecting information that stores might have improperly thrown out – this affects all of us.

The city is also concerned about accidents happening in and on their property. People climbing in and out of bins in the dark can easily lead to an accident – or someone getting trapped in a bin etc.

I know we’ve all seen people doing it on tv so it doesn’t seem like it’s a crime – but it is. I had always thought that it was ok for people to go through the regular blue bins, we always have people go through ours. When I phoned the city to ask what the actual law was I was pretty surprised it includes everything – and that I was also asked if I wanted to file a report. The city is serious about this, and they ask anyone with information to report it to them or the non-emergency police line.

Wanted to share this with everyone, always good to stay in the know. There are better ways to find coupons (and legal ways).

So stay out of those bins everyone! 🙂

And thanks to the City of Winnipeg website for the information!


25 Replies to “Dumpster Diving

  1. wow….. i’ve never wanted to go dumpster dive, i’ve seen pictures on facebook and it just doesn’t appeal to me, but i had no idea that the small blue bin are included in this law… i always wondered….. wonder what the fine is?
    awesome information…
    i know, that there are better ways, i went to a gas station one sat night to fill up… and the cashier was cleaning up the newspapers and offered it to me for free… i think thats a much faster and cleaner way to get any coupons..

  2. Thank goodness the city will be getting rid of dumpsters this year. I’ve seen stories on the news in other cities where people get food from garbage that stores and restaurants throw out daily, perfectly good food that is just waste because consumers only want the freshest and best – not something I would do but it’s a strong commentary on our society and how much we waste when so much of the world, our own city is starving.

    Digging through garbage for coupons though is quite another thing. How greedy do you have to be to do that? with all the sources of coupons these days – printable online, websites, flyers, trains, trading, even just by phoning companies direct, there are cetainly more than enough coupons out there for my needs anyways.

    there will always be people who are given an inch and take a mile. And give a bad name to those of us who are just good honest people looking to save some money on our bills honestly, not illegally.

    Keep up the good work Nadine, you have a strong following of like minded people!

  3. Very interesting read Nadine!!! I agree that I would never go to that extent to get coupons! I think it may have gotten worse since extreme couponing came on TLC. I think it’s wrong and would be pretty angry if I caught someone going through my recycle bins! Really if you are that desperate for coupons why not send around a note to your neighbors asking them to keep any unused coupons for you? It all just seems really gross and wrong to me.

    • I see homeless people go through ours all the time, as long as they keep it clean I don’t say anything. Now that I know, I will probably just not put it out any earlier than I have to, to avoid that. And asking your neighbours is a great idea, and you can always surprise them with a little treat after. Good way to get to know your neighbours, and share that community spirit.

  4. Hmm… a lot of thoughts going through my head with this one. First, let me say I have never gone ‘dumpster-diving’…. have I taken anything from the garbage – I confess I have. I live in an apartment block and one day there was a set of sheers along with the rods in the bin. I took them out and they were in perfect condition. They are now hanging very prettily in my mother’s house.

    So…. what about the ‘give-away’ weekends? Is that not just like dumpster-diving except that it on a couple of specific weekends and it is put out for the purpose of having it picked up? People throw away stuff they no longer want that is still perfectly ok and can be used by someone else. Is it not ok to take that out of the bins? (Not saying it’s legal, I am just saying.) I am talking about things like bookshelves, end tables, etc. Just wondering.

    When I did a major downsizing, I took everything to Valu Village…. truckloads of stuff. Some was good, some maybe not so good – but I figured one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. (I even phoned to see if they wanted those hangers that come with some of the clothes you buy, especially kids clothes – and they wanted those as well.)

    Just some things to think about. As I said, I don’t go dumpster diving but I have seen people coming around looking in the big bin, and if they are taking say, beer bottles to return, is that not saving the landfill? I don’t know…. I mean there is the issue of identity theft to worry about (of course if they tried to steal mine they would be out of luck – nothing there to ‘steal’), but if something can be ‘reused’ or ‘recycled’ are they not helping save the planet?

    • Good points Irene – the giveaway weekends are organized by the city, so of course those are ok. And even those have strict rules, dawn to dusk only etc.
      We always put stuff beside our garbage if it’s still good, and people do take it. The issue is the city owned bins mostly – that is what they are worried about. The ones people have to climb into, where they can get hurt. Someone owns the bin, and someone else owns the land – so it’s a big double, or triple no-no since the garbage belongs to the city. People need to learn to donate their stuff properly I guess. We do a lot of drop offs at local charities, and we do take part in the giveaway weekends too – save the stuff til then.

  5. I am kind of mortified that people would be ‘dumpster diving’ and sending you photos – is it really worth grabbing a coupon for 50 cents and risking grabbing a used syringe or soiled diaper?

    Good advice as well about shredding/destroying personal information. I have friends in various areas of the city (like Osborne area) that have a huge problem with people going through their garbage looking for beer bottles/cans to take in – they have found their (and neighbours) personal papers flying down the backlane after these folks have dug around…

  6. I had a sewer back up problem and had to throw out many household items that “appeared” good or in good condition when in fact they had touched this backup. Bedbugs are an epademic in this city as well. Be careful about picking up items that may look good as you just never know why they have been thrown out.

  7. This is all well said. My garbage my property. The same goes for the reverse when people drop waste into my garbage bin. Especially when it contains dog poop and they do not tie the bag. Your dog, your poop, take it home!

    There is alot of personal information that can be used to an identity thief. Even if you think it is insignificant.

  8. To each their own I guess. I think that as long as the folks aren’t a)hurting anyone or b)making a mess I think that this form of recycling if you will is fine by me. I acknowledge that the law doesn’t like it but if I have anything in my garbage or recycle bin that you want or need take it! I will neither judge you or turn you in. All I ask is that you keep it as tidy as you found it.

    • I personally do not dumpster dive but have seen and heard of people finding perfectly good items clothing, food, appliances. I’ve seen people remove items found in back lanes, furniture doors, windows, picture frames etc. I see nothing wrong with taking things you can use, especially items which are packaged or sealed and things that can easily be cleaned or sanitized. What I do object to are ‘scrappers’ who come right into your yard and remove items they can sell for cash to metal recyclers etc.

  9. I constantly leave things out for people who will be able to re-use them. If I’m too lazy to use Winnipeg Freecycle, or when nobody responds to my Freecycle ads, I leave them beside the garbage bin, with either a note saying “FREE”, or in a neat, clean box. I’ve given away tons of things like that (stroller, books, old air conditioner, huge box of pop cans for people who trade them in for cash, etc.). Last week I put out a stack of magazines from last year. I don’t see an issue with people who can re-use items that I no longer want. However, I definitely do not encourage people to take home cloth furniture because of the bed bug issue and food because who knows whats in there…

  10. This is why I love this site. Always good accurate information. I’ve seen those extreme shows and some people take it too far. Like ‘in need therapy’ to far!

  11. I guess I’m in the opposite corner on this one. My family has never really been hard-up for money but as a kid a remember stopping from time to time on garbage day when my mom or dad would see something at the end of drive that they thought could be worth saving. It’s not so much about greed, but more about the awful world of commercialism we live in now… and not wanting to be a part of it. If my dad or grandfather could make something that was one person “junk” into our “treasure” then I suppose I’m gonna be buying 1 less thing and hopefully the companies will be making one less thing, and there might just be 1 more tree or rock or animal because of it. I have read a few articles not from some far of place or big city, but from winnipeg, I believe in reduce, reuse, recycle, and I will probably continue to do it with out shame.

    Sure I’d love to live in a world where everyone is going to take the time to donate their old items in a way that is more sustainable… but making change is not about waiting for others to do, but doing it yourself… 1 piece of “junk” at a time for me, I suppose.

    Both sets of my grandparents built a house piece by piece from other people’s “junk”. It may not have been finished in a month and from stories and pictures I know it took years… but I would give anything to be just like them. Once again and as always… NO SHAME.

    • I get what you mean Liz – big difference between grabbing an item from the end of a driveway to reuse – or grabbing thousands of coupons from a city owned dumpster to cash in for thousands more items that will end up in the landfill. No shame in people passing along their used items, and that’s not illegal for people to pass from one to another. Giveaway weekends are always a big success, and people usually very happy with what they get for free – the city was smart to keep that going.

  12. I don’t think dumpster diving is entirely bad. I won’t be doing it personally but if others are, than so be it. They are doing it at their own risk, and as long as they aren’t causing any harm to others, than why not. We live in a wasteful, consumer driven society.

  13. I do the recycle walks every now and then. It’s not a big deal like some of you make it. If I want to save money for me and my family and go for a walk around the block looking in recycle bins, well I am going to do that. When anyone asks what I am doing I tell them and they tell me good luck. Its not like I am making alot of racket or making a big fat mess. If the inserts are not within reach, or I have to move a bunch of stuff to get to them, I just pass and move onto the next one. When all the inserts come around the same time the recycle walks are awesome!! I will have in my possesion tonite at least 30 of each insert…is it greed? NO! It is fun and exciting knowing I am gonna save tons of money next time I shop and I have plenty to share and trade leftover. LOL! And I am doing it without having to waste gas and run all over the city looking for them. Everybody to their own.

  14. What a great discussion!!! reading all the comments, it’s obvious that there is a very diverse opinion on what is acceptable and what isn’t. I don’t live in the city and don’t have any dumpsters to go diving into…but I have seen the mess that some people can leave after they have gone “diving”, and it is disgusting. It’s too bad that items that can be recycled could not just be put beside the bin therefore elimating the diving. I recycle all my paper and cans in blue bags what are picked up once a week. Would I go up and down my street opening blue bags to look for coupons?? Absolutely not. Would I ask my friends or neighbors to save inserts for me or ask the library to do so…absolutely yes. But there should be a limit as to what each of us is willing to do to get coupons, otherwise all couponers will be affected by our actions.

  15. Hi all,

    I saw the posts of a coupon site that was going out this week to dumpster dive. I have never had a problem with people getting things from my bin, but I agree it is very dangerous at night going through these big City bins.

    I’ve often been concerned about what would I say if I did do it and someone questioned me? I never did it, but I also wouldn’t lie and say I lost a ring in order to try and excuse what I’m doing, which is what one member suggested they often do when asked by the public what they are doing.

    l agree with a previous member’s post. Having worked in an industry where I had to dump things into bins, there are tremendous risks associated with garbage. There are rats and other fecal matter in these bins that people can’t see at night. I know I once had a rat run over my hand when I threw some items into a bin and another time I dumped garbage into the bin on top of some homeless people scrounging for food.

    I agree with the thought of recycling items and maybe that is a suggestion we can advance to the stores. Perhaps we can we can put up coupon boxes so people can throw their extra coupons in there and others can sort through them in a clean and safe manner.

    Every time we step over a line bad things happen. I don’t know that the City would actually go after people, but the facts are the facts and I’d hate for something bad to happen and then everyone gets tarnished with the same brush.

    Thanks Nadine for looking out for us all.

  16. I agree with Terri. Each to their own. I personally live in the country so I don’t have a street or city to do recycle walks or dumpster diving. However, I think many people are making a bigger fuss out of this than it really is. I recently (this week) did my first and probably only recycle bin dive however a) there was nothing in it except for the saturday papers that the store had just thrown out; b) I had permission from the gas station and c) it was not in Winnipeg (where the by-laws apply). Was it because I was greedy? Absolutely not! I belong to a mom’s group where we exchange/give away coupons… People have their reasons for doing what they do. Each to their own. I wouldn’t encourage doing something illegal but I think it is rather rude to same someone’s greedy for trying to collect coupons..

  17. I have to say, I think most of you are missing the point on this one. Have you seen the documentary Dive? It’s about dumpster diving at grocery stores for food. Honestly I think if you’re that concerned about identity theft, then don’t recycle that stuff, burn it. Otherwise, trash is trash and more than likely, your dumpster isn’t on your property, so you no longer have a claim to it. I’m certain that the by-law is intended for commercial properties. If you’re the type of person who gets upset because someone is digging through your blue box for a couple tin cans which might them buy a meal that night, I hope you open your eyes soon to the level of poverty in this city. Those who do it accept the risk and the by-law does protect you, or a grocery store, from being liable.

  18. identity theft is a moral issue, for sure. which is why I promise not to do it when I go dumpster diving. If you’re going to appeal to my moral conscience, please do not refer to laws. Laws uphold government policies above individual moral agency. And that is exactly why freegans and other dumpster divers do what they do. They see stores completely unconcerned about food waste in favor of keeping people hungry so they’ll buy the newest product, and want to protest that. The way to do so is to expose the injustice “protection of private property” when it is protecting companies’ right to waste still edible food within a world full of hunger. There is nothing inherently noble to simply obeying a law if you see it leading to and facilitating injustice. But of course, if all you’re after is coupons then it’s not worth the effort. If this is how you feed yourself when you’re working 70 unpaid hours as a university student per wee, then one can’t think too highly of the right of stores to protect their trash.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.