best places to dumpster dive

Best Places to Dumpster Dive

Ah yes, good ‘ol dumpster diving! Who would’ve ever thought jumping in other people’s trash could be so lucrative? Facts are, people throw away valuable stuff every single day. Not only people, but businesses too.

As the saying goes, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. But, where should you dumpster dive in order to get the most bang for your buck? After all, not all dumpsters are created equal!

In this post we’re going to explore the 10 best places to dumpster dive in 2021.

10 Best Places to Dumpster Dive

Neighborhood Trash Bins

First up on the list is neighborhood trash bins. Every week people put out there trash to be collected, and every week there is valuable stuff that goes unnoticed. The key to dumpster diving in neighborhoods is location. Choosing the right neighborhood makes all the difference in the world.

Obviously, the richer the neighborhood, the better opportunity you have at finding expensive items. However, rich people tend to have more of an issue than most people when it comes to rummaging through their trash. So, you’ll want to find that happy medium of upper middle class, but not too rich to where you’ll have to deal with security and complaining residents.

Early in the morning is the best time for doing this because people will usually put out their trash the night before and will be too tired to get up and complain if you’re out there at 5-6am. So, early risers get the worm!


The gaming industry is booming, which means there’s a lot of excess going around when it comes to games and gaming accessories. From headsets to controllers, games, and more, there’s plenty of opportunity to get some good stuff on a nightly basis.

Creating a side hustle strictly from dumpster diving in your local Gamestop stores is entirely possible. The reason is because Gamestop employees aren’t allowed to take anything home with them. They must throw it away, which is good for us!

The one downside with Gamestop is that you’re likely to run into some stiff competition from other dumpster divers in the area. It’s pretty well known that Gamestop can be a goldmine, so they are frequently targeted by other divers. But, if you’re able to to it just right to where you know when the employees will be getting rid of excess merchandise, you have a decent shot of scoring some valuable gear.


If you’re not afraid of getting chased by security, targeting Apple stores can pay off like gangbusters. We all know how much an Iphone, airpods, and practically anything Apple sells goes for. It’s not cheap.

So, targeting these stores can give you a whole new income stream. While it’s not very often that you’re going to find an Iphone sitting in their dumpster, you’d be surprised by how many they actually throw out.

However, Apple knows the value of their stuff and so they are much more strict when it comes to policing their dumpsters than other stores or locations on this list. If you’re up for the challenge though, it could mean a money windfall in the near future.


The beauty market is huge! I’m a guy, but even I know how big this industry is. Just look at Kylie Jenner’s net worth and you can see that the beauty industry isn’t slowing down anytime soon.

The one big caveat for Ulta is that you’re going to want to have some idea of what makeup is worth. I stay away from dumpster diving in Ulta because I have no idea what’s valuable and what’s not.

But, if you’re familiar with brands, styles, and makeup accessories, you can make a killing from dumpster diving at Ulta stores.

Retail Stores

While places like Gamestop, Apple, and Ulta are the top spots when it comes to retailers, pretty much any retail location is going to have some decent opportunities for making some money with dumpster diving. Places like Five Below, Nike, Nordstrom, Target, and similar locations, are all going to have excess stuff waiting for you to dive in and grab.

So, if your local Gamestop or Apple store is located in a mall, you might as well just make the rounds and check out all of the dumpsters while you’re there to see what you can find.

Apartment Complexes

Apartment complexes can be a goldmine when it comes to dumpster diving because people are constantly moving to new places and often times have no use for their old furniture and will need to get rid of it in a hurry.

If they’re unable to find somebody online or locally to sell it to, 9 times out of 10 they’re just g0ing to leave it by the dumpsters just so they can get rid of it. I know this because it’s happened to me before!

This is especially true if people are moving to a new city. Similar to dumpster diving in residential areas, you’ll want to target higher end apartment complexes because they’re more often than not going to have more expensive things that they need to get rid of.

If you plan on dumpster diving at apartment complexes though, you’re going to want to have a truck. Usually, you’re going to encounter large items that will be difficult to squeeze into a car. so, if you only have a car to work with, dumpster diving in apartment complexes probably isn’t the best option.

College Campuses

You wouldn’t believe how much stuff college students get rid of at the end of each semester. I like dumpster diving at college campuses whenever students are finishing a semester. This is when they all tend to go home and leave behind some good stuff if they don’t plan on coming back to the dorms.

Rarely will college kids plan ahead and try and sell their stuff before they leave, so hitting up universities a couple of times a year can pay huge dividends. Again, you’re most likely going to want to have a truck. However, because you don’t need to target college campuses very often, you can make a day out of it and just rent a U-Haul for the day and go around to each dumpster at the dorms, picking up stuff along the way.

Construction Sites

If construction is your thing and you’re looking for a lot of good materials to work with for cheap, then dumpster diving at construction sites can be a huge win. Any time a new building is going up, or a remodeling job is happening, you’re going to find a ton of excess materials getting tossed out.

If you’re the do it yourself type of person, then this can be the jackpot. You’ll have tons of materials, paint, wood, and more at your disposal.

Garage Sales

Garage sale sign on the lawn of a suburban home

Garage sales are great to target for the same reason that apartment complexes are. People are getting rid of a ton of stuff, and if they can’t sell it, it’s most likely going in the trash.

In order to target garage sales for dumpster diving, I like to use the yard sale app. This will tell you all of the places that garage sales are going down on a given week/weekend.

You can also kill two birds with one stone, because you can hit up the garage sales earlier in the day, and then come back for any extras you might have missed.

Restaurants and Grocery Stores

If you don’t have an issue picking food out of the trash, restaurants, bakery’s and grocery stores can all be great places to get high quality food. While it might sound disgusting at first, the fact of the matter is, grocery stores can’t sell anything that’s past its due date.

This doesn’t mean that the food is bad though. Let’s be honest, how much food have you eaten that has been well past its expiration date? I know for me personally, it’s quite a lot. So, with restaurants and grocery stores, you can often find high quality food that has just hit its expiration date and therefore must be thrown away.

What Should You Wear Dumpster Diving?

Anytime you’re going dumpster diving, you’re going to want to make sure you have the proper gear. Here’s what you should be wearing when dumpster diving


Your shoes should be sturdy with good support and have a thick sole that can resist punctures. If you’re dumpster diving, there is a real possibility you could step on glass, a nail, or something sharp. So, wearing tough, durable shoes is important


When dumpster diving, you’re going to want to bring some gloves. Make sure they aren’t too thick because otherwise it’s going to be difficult to pick things up and sort through the trash. Grab some gloves at the hardware store and you’ll be good to go


For most retail stores, you’re going to want to dumpster dive at night. So, it’s a no brainer that you’re going to want to bring a flashlight along as well so that you can see what you’re doing

Dark Clothing

Wearing dark clothing serves a couple of purposes. For one, you’re most likely going to get stains on your clothes, so it’s better to wear dark clothing so it isn’t as noticeable. Second, and more importantly, wearing dark clothes while dumpster diving will make it more difficult for people to see you. You don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb while you’re dumpster diving.

Dumpster Diving Tips for Beginners

  • Be humble and willing to learn, there are others you can learn from, like Frugal Family
  • Decide what you want to dive for
  • Don’t go for locked dumpsters
  • Don’t become a hoarder
  • Dump for what you know, time is valuable
  • What is your reason for diving? Answer that. For me it was reselling
  • Research the stores around you, this is very important
  • Go often, find a solid set of selected stores and go there consistently. Aim for a 2-4 week trial before giving up on a location
  • Have a place for your finds. Organize your finds, remember you can use the dumpster’s boxes.
  • Label resalable items by time/season and location to sell
  • Put a towel on your backseat/trunk
  • Carry hand sanitizer

Overall, dumpster diving can be a great side hustle once you get the hang of it. There is a learning curve though, so don’t give up too soon. It’s going to take a bit of time before you find the right spots and right times to go. Be patient!

In the end though, if you’re looking to make some extra cash and want a fun weekend hobby, definitely give dumpster diving a go.

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