A few years ago I was perusing a tile store looking for tiles for a DIY mosaic project and asked the tile salesman if he had any chipped or broken tile for my project. He pointed toward the direction of the dumpster out back. At first, I was put off by the idea of rummaging through the store trash, but took the plunge anyway. Not only did the trash bin prove to be “clean,” it was a treasure trove of beautiful, brightly colored shards of broken and unbroken tile. This find was just ripe for my DIY tesserae mosaic project. As my husband and I backed the car up to the dumpster, I asked him, “Is this an all time low of insanity, or are we on to something green?”
Wikipedia defines dumpster diving as, “The practice of sifting through commercial or residential trash to find items that have been discarded by their owners, but which may be useful to the dumpster diver.” There are several ethical arguments to justify dumpster diving. By reusing resources destined for the landfill makes dumpster diving a green endeavor. Another is the wastefulness of a consumer society and its throw-away mentality that prompts some individuals to rescue usable items from destruction.
Is it illegal to take something from someone’s trash or go through a store dumpster? I did some digging around and found that since trash has no value, it is generally not theft. But, make sure that there are no local ordinances or laws that make this activity illegal in your area. Also, get permission if trespassing on private property.
Is there an art to dumpster diving? For decorating purposes here are some recommendations, adapted from, Should you decorate your home with trash from the streets?:
- Don’t be a snob. There are great items that people throw away, and you could provide a great new home for them.
- Be discerning. Just because something is free doesn’t mean it’s going to work in your home or that it should be in anyone’s home. So use some commonsense and throw in a dollop of good taste.
- Be cautious of upholstered items. Sofas, cushions, pillows, and other soft goods may have become infested with little insects and other critters while they spend time outside.
- Steer clear of old mattresses and wall-to-wall carpets. Both house dust mites and other allergens.
- Broken items like old china and chipped vases can be handily recycled.
- Make sure chair and furniture parts are sturdy and strong once again.
- Turn an old bookcase, chair, or table into something really fun for your home with just a new coat of eco-friendly paint.
Ever since that first plunge into the tile store dumpster, I keep my eyes peeled for creative ways to convert tossed items into decorative decor for my EcoNest. What do you think? Are you a dumpster diver? Is rummaging through a dumpster a way to hunt for treasures for your home something you are willing to dive into, or an adventure in grossness?
Ronnie Citron-Fink lives in New York with her husband, two children (when they come home to the nest), two dogs and a cat. Ronnie is a teacher and a writer. She has been a contributing writer for Family Fun magazine. She currently writes articles about education and home design. Her writings are in four books including Family Fun Home and Some Delights of the Hudson Valley.