I went dumpster diving with a guy named A on campus last weekend, after students had vacated. It was pretty nice and solitary. We weren't hassled. We found some decent stuff. Some of it, like shoes and food, we donated to the homeless shelter (minus the can of Spaghetti-Os that I'm keeping to eat). There was a brand new monopoly set and a big picture frame that holds 4 pix. We scooped up a backpack and some writing implements, storage containers, rags and a towel (which I definitely washed in hot water with bleach and the single serving laundry detergent packet we dug out of the dumpster). There were some ethernet cables and shelving units and now I can't even remember what else we kept.
I was amazed at the amount of recyclable material in the dumpster. We gathered up all the aluminum cans we found and a couple tall kitchen bags worth of plastic bottles along with a couple scraps of glass. We took them to the Garnet & Gold Goes Green recycling bin, figuring that was a good way to give back to the school and the earth.
In fact, it feels really cool to take stuff that was going to be thrown away and find a use for it. Not just a decorative use, but a function (well, maybe except for the picture frame). I will probably eat the Spaghetti-Os later this week as a baby step toward being able to eat other food out of a dumpster. I know that sounds gross, but if you watch the documentary I linked to above, you'll hopefully have your mind changed. I think I'm going to draw the line for now at things that are still in their packaging...like cereal still in the bag inside the box and canned food. Maybe in the future I could expand to produce.
When I was younger, I used to go on walks or bike rides with my family where the objective was to extract recyclable metals from dumpsters, take the home, prep them if needed, and turn in to the scrap yard for extra money. I was fairly embarrassed by doing this as a much more self conscious person than I am today. I thought that it wasn't normal and that my friends didn't do it so that made me weird. Looking back, it was a lesson that we have a lot of waste and that if people care enough about it, then they can clean up after everyone else and be rewarded for it.
Preview of the movie linked to above: