It’s nearly the end of the school year, and as such, ‘tis the season for students to leave loads of unwanted, forgotten, or otherwise unnecessary goods behind as they trek back to wherever home may be. For those with a keen eye, and just a dash of street smarts, these piles of trash are more than just an eyesore, they’re the biggest haul of the year. In the world of dumpster diving, no season, not even Christmas, is more cherished than the end of the spring semester.
This would be a good time to note that dumpster diving—the act of opening up a dumpster and taking anything from inside it for your own—is illegal in Corvallis. It’s not 25-to-life illegal, but it’s worse than jaywalking. We, at The Corvallis Advocate, are in no way advocating for you to go out there and dive into dumpsters. Make good choices.
For some Corvallis residents, the risk is well worth the reward. “I got a handbag worth $5,000,” said one experienced dumpster spelunker who wished to remain anonymous. “Prada, they just left it. I got Jimmy Choos, too. The ones that come up to here,” he said, gesturing to his mid-thigh. “You learn what to look for.”
As important as knowing the trash from the buried treasure inside a dumpster is being aware of your surroundings. As it is illegal, dumpster divers do their best to stay out of sight, not just of the police, but also Corvallis residents. Knowing the area you are in, and when to expect passersby, will help dictate the available times to go diving. Daytime dives can work out if done quickly and quietly, but most serious dumpster divers operate at night, using headlamps, nearby streetlights, and small flashlights to navigate through the garbage to get to the good stuff.
Beginners looking to reclaim and reuse some refuse without the inherent risks of digging through dumpsters under cover of darkness can start just by taking a drive around town. Apartment structures that cater to students are a good place to start, but some of the best treasures can be found in unexpected places. Curbside items with a sign saying “free” are always a safe bet, and there are plenty of good pieces of furniture up for grabs there. The downside to only looking on the side of the road is that everyone passing by has seen the same offerings. Unless you get lucky, it’s probably been picked over already.
“I know guys who say, ‘All the best stuff is always on the bottom,’ but look here.” There’s a ring on the man’s hand that looks expensive, thick white gold with a gemstone or five in it. “This was in a little box, sitting right on top.”
It’s clear from looking at the dumpster diver’s outfit that he has indeed learned what to look for. With six rings, nice shoes, a brand new Deadpool T-shirt, he’s an amalgam of the discarded accoutrements of college. Despite the occasional finds worth thousands, he says he’s not out searching for quick cash. “I try my best to donate. You know, if I see stuff, and it’s good, and I can’t use it, I get it to someone who can.”
However, if someone was looking to make a quick profit, hypothetically, where would they go? “International students. The school [year] is over and they just,” he spreads his arms wide, “dump their whole apartment. Everything, man.” Shipping costs being what they are, for many international students, most items just aren’t worth the hassle and cost to take home with them. That means nearly fully furnished apartments sitting in dumpsters and on curbs, even in laundromats. “I don’t know what it is, but there are always a couple of dryers just full of clothes and nobody ever comes back for them.”
It bears mentioning again that digging through dumpsters and taking anything from them is illegal—you could end up with a trespassing or vandalism charge. So if you’re looking to offload some unwanted items of your own, don’t throw it away if it’s still useful. Donate your clothes, donate your microwave, post an ad on Craigslist for that dresser. Somebody, somewhere, will find it useful, and would appreciate not having to risk a criminal charge in order to have a new (to them) pair of shoes. And, if you are going to throw away that fancy ring, leave it out on top. It just might make someone’s day.
By Kyle Bunnell