Students dumpster dive for treasures

Luke Hutchinson | Staff Writer

One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Dumpster diving is when a person searches through someone else’s trash to find specific objects – the hobby existed even before the Supreme Court’s 1988 case “California vs. Greenwood,” which stated that when a person throws something out, that item is now in the public domain.

Freshman Elizabeth Mitan said she used to ride her bike as a kid, but the discontent she felt towards the litter in her neighborhood started her experience as a diver.

“Once I put the litter in my neighbors’ trash cans, I actually started to sort through their trash, and if they hadn’t properly sorted their recyclables, I would sort it for them,” Mitan said. “If I find something really cool while I’m going through their garbage, I kind of just think, ‘Why not?’“

Mitan said that as she continued to dive and organize, she ended up getting friends to do it with her – but while it’s fun, it sometimes makes people upset.

“Most people didn’t care, but I had one neighbor who saw my friend and I sorting through her garbage and she angrily chased us off her lawn,” Mitan said. “She called me disgusting and said she didn’t want me in her neighborhood. Here I was thinking I was just helping the environment.”

Sophomore Madison Matthews said the first time she dumpster dived was with her brother, but it has since become a regular type of entertainment.

“My brother and I went behind an Apple store, and there were a whole bunch of phone chargers that we got,” Matthews said. “The next few times, I went with a group behind an Ulta dumpster where tons of makeup products are. I can’t even name all the specific products I got because I haven’t gone through the pile yet.”

Model & Talent Management Cincinnati model and sophomore Emma Davisson said she’s gone diving with Matthews and in other groups, but that Ulta’s dumpster is a popular dive site for students.

“I went late at night because I think it’s kind of illegal, but since Ulta carries regular makeup and drugstore makeup but doesn’t put testers out for drugstore makeup, they end up throwing away tons of completely new, packaged makeup that is totally sanitary to take,” Davisson said. “With hundreds of dollars of stuff being tossed, dumpster diving is just like thrift shopping – except it’s free.”

While there are not any specific city ordinances against dumpster diving, students still run the risk of trespassing through private property to access the dumpster.

Freshman Justin Rose said that the experience he had searching inside a full-sized dumpster for his homework that he accidentally threw away made him realize that there is something positive to be said about real divers.

“The trash my homework was in had already been taken out to the big dumpster already, so I was forced to go through it,” Rose said. “The dumpster was actually easily accessible, and I found my homework, which left me thinking about how most see dumpster diving as weird. People that do it are definitely resourceful, but society doesn’t accept it because of their perception of the word trash.”

Sophomore Brennan Murray said he was in his friend’s neighborhood when they saw three empty dumpsters near a construction site and decided to take a risk out of boredom.

“We just said ‘Oh what the heck, let’s see if there’s something in there’ – I think the most fun was jumping down into the dumpster,” Murray said. “We went through tons of boxes of doorknobs, faucets, and nails that I didn’t take, but actually another time at MECC, I was diving and I found a really sick black teacher’s bag that I still use.”

Murray said that he had multiple adults that saw him in public and would either call out to him or stare him down.

“A lady walking her dog told us to stop and think about what we were doing, and I’m pretty sure a guy parked his car just to watch us,” Murray said. “A lot of people would say we look like lawbreakers when really we are just using our resources.”