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    Urban Survival: The Art of Dumpster Diving

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    Urban Survival: The Art of Dumpster Diving

    Sitting down to pen an article about dumpster diving for urban survival is a telling moment. In a sensible and prosperous society, we would not be having this kind of a discussion. The opportunity would not reach far enough for people to concern themselves with the act of dumpster diving.

    That said, we are living through SHTF in America. This is just one of many signs.

    Truth be told, for the prepper that is stocking up and preparing to survive, dumpster diving can bring serious benefits. If you are near a large retailer there is a good chance you can take advantage of dumpster diving.

    I am sure you have lots of questions so, let’s get into some of the most important ones.

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    Not Just the Homeless Anymore

    Would you believe me if I told you that there are regular people out there making serious money selling items that they have found in dumpsters. For a long time, it was thought that struggling students and homeless people were the only ones who would be rooting around in dumpsters for food and goods.

    Dumpster diving is not even just a survival skill that people can utilize in tough times. It is also a money-making opportunity for people who might be inclined to restore, repair, and resale the furniture and belongings of other people.

    “Especially in the time we live in, you kind of have to realize that if you don't take that thing out of the trash, that's going to a landfill,” Erin told Insider. “But also, you can actually make money.”

    How a New York Couple Makes Around $3,000 a Month by Dumpster Diving (businessinsider.com)

    Divers Legality

    The act of taking a business’s trash is not what will get you into legal trouble. The main legal concern for the modern dumpster diving urban survivor is going to be trespassing. Should a business choose to prosecute dumpster divers it would be for this one charge above all.

    That said, you should still check all your local laws and ordinances. You might find that there are specific laws against dumpster diving. Many localities do not have laws, but you don’t want to assume anything.

    Also, remember that anything you damage or any secured area that you enter is grounds for prosecution. You will have to choose locations that are set up for easy access in areas where dumpster diving is legal.

    Top Dumpster Diving Locations for Urban Survival

    Some dumpster diving locations are better than others. When it comes to dumpster diving for urban survival you will likely want to avoid places with lots of fresh food waste as that can get nasty. Let’s take a look at some of the best major retailers to dumpster dive.


    Now could be one of the best times to consider dumpster diving at your local Target. It would seem tough times could be ahead for Target as they are at the forefront of a major controversy.  If sales decrease, then lots of products will find their way into those dumpsters.

    Target sells almost everything in their stores so you can find plenty of preps and survival items. Target dumpsters are also a great place to harvest resale items. You can make some money for prepping and survival by selling some of the items you find in a Target dumpster.

    All that said, there are lots of prepping items in your average target, too. They have entire sections of the store dedicated to housewares, first aid & medicine, personal hygiene items, clothing, shoes, and even a small outdoors section.

    Best Buy – Electronics

    Whether you are looking for specific electronics for your preps, Best Buy does sell the Jackery solar compatible battery pack or trying to turn a profit for more prepping money, this is a great location for it. Dumpster diving at Best Buy can be a place where you get some serious return on investment.

    Even if you do not find the electronics that you wanted for yourself, you could make a killing by selling things like headphones and other electronics on sites like eBay or even at yard sales.

    Hardware Stores

    Easily the most dangerous dumpsters to dive, hardware stores might still be worth the risk. Dropping down into some glass could be a serious issue so look before you leap!

    That said, this is the place where you are going to find tools, lumber, pipe, metal, nails and screws, along with all other hardware related items. These tend to translate to prepping and homesteading very easily. There is always another project when you are a prepper. Fencing is an absolute boon for the homesteaders!

    With hardware stores you want to plan for larger items. If you find 20 lengths of 10ft PVC pipe, then how are you going to get that home? What about lumber? You might be able to hit the local Target on an ebike, but I would recommend bringing the pickup truck to dumpster dive a hardware store. 

    Dollar General – Food and Non-Food Items

    One of the best places to dumpster dive for preps is the Dollar General. If you have taken a quick walk through the Dollar General, then you might not realize all the preps hiding in that store.

    • Personal Hygiene
    • First Aid
    • Canned & Shelf Stable Foods
    • Cleaning Products

    Rented Dumpsters

    While retail goods are nice, you can also find a ton of things in rented dumpsters in residential areas. Dumpster diving for things like furniture and other home goods can save you a lot of money. If you are into resale, then you can even make some money from these people.

    Dumpster Diving Safety Gear

    The act of digging around in a dumpster could put you in danger of getting injured from whatever kind of threats might lurk down there. The dumpster is the last stop for all dangerous things that spill or break in a retail setting. Barring a biohazard, hopefully.


    Thick boots are a game changer when it comes to dumpster diving. You just cannot be sure all the time of what you are literally stepping in to. Steel toes are great and of course make sure the boots are waterproof.


    Work gloves are a must for dumpster diving. They should be thick and nearly impenetrable. There are sharp, rusty, and dangerous things in dumpsters that will cut you. Rifling through things will put your hands at risk.

    Thick Clothing

    Thick clothing is important because it can also protect you from the dangers of dumpster diving. Multiple layers of clothing are a great way to get added protection. Also wear durable materials that can prevent punctures and absorb liquids to avoid direct contact with your skin.

    Though I have never worn a Tyvek to dumpster dive they could be a good outer layer.

    N95 Mask

    These masks are great at filtering out particulate matter. There is almost always some form of particulate matter in dumpsters. Some are less dangerous than others, but it all has the potential to wind up in your lungs while you are shifting things around inside of a dumpster.

    Head Covering

    Getting trash and other debris in your hair is just gonna be a problem for you later. Cover your head up with a cap or hood to assure you limit exposure to anything hazardous that might be down in the dumpster with you.


    There are many skills for the urban survivor to learn. Dumpster diving is one of those skills that most people wouldn’t have considered years ago but we understand it much better now. The nature of what goes in dumpsters has changed a lot, too.

    There is real money thrown into dumpsters in this nation, every day. There are also some great opportunities for a prepper to stock the home shelves with a variety of preps. If you are a little handy then dumpster diving can become a literal income stream for you. 

    Most importantly, consider the legality of what you are doing at each step of the process. It’s not the dumpster diving that will get you into trouble, its tampering, trespassing, and destruction of property to get to the items in the dumpster.

    Happy hunting!

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