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Dumpster Diving Essay

dumpster diving essay

Example #1

How many times have you or someone you know thrown away items that could be given to goodwill or recycled? I know I have done this many times without thinking that these items may be useful to someone else. Dumpster Divers are people who search for things that other people have thrown out that are still useful, can be recycled, and have value.

They will not only pick up discarded items left at the curbside of people’s homes, but they will climb into dumpsters at apartment buildings and behind shopping centers. Most dumpster divers don’t actually get into the bins and dig around. Instead, they use a long pole allowing them to lean over the dumpster and pull the goods they want up to them.

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People enjoy doing this as a hobby. For them, it is like a treasure hunt. Dumpster diving can also be profitable. For example, Money can be made from aluminum cans to items that can be resold in a garage/yard sale. Dumpster diving has its’ good qualities as well as bad qualities. The good being that I have listed above. The bad qualities being that dumpster divers need not get into dumpsters that have medical and hazardous waste.

Here a person could be jabbed with a used sharp needle or even get an unknown substance on them. In some places dumpster diving is illegal. I can see the reasoning of why it would be. I feel that in a way it is stealing as well as who wants people going through their garbage, which may contain paperwork with confidential information on it. I also can see that sometimes it is also a good thing because something I may throw away may be very useful to someone else.


Example #2 – Lars Eighner “on Dumpster Diving”

In Lars Eighner’s short essay “On Dumpster Diving”, he describes his experience of being homeless and the art of dumpster driving. Eighner prefers being referred to as a scavenger rather than a dumpster driver. Eighner stated “I like the frankness of the word scavenging. I live from the refuse of others. I am a scavenger.” (383) He describes scavenging as a full-time job, that requires a lot of effort. He believes that if one follows certain guidelines and rules, doing so could possibly help one to become efficient.

One rule is knowing a good place and time to look for food and other items, that could be useful. Another rule is knowing how to eat safely from a dumpster. They would view all their findings as trash, while Eighner sees it as treasure. The typical wealthy consumer would definitely view Eighner findings as trash, due to the fact that they are accustomed to buying everything brand new. In this sense, I feel that Eighner feels a bit better than the consumer.

Maybe because he can survive in the worst condition and still be happy, while other people are pampered and only seek comfort. Even though Eighner seems to be ok with the life he is living, I get puzzled by the thought of why is Eighner homeless in the first place? Is it by choice or was he left with no other option? I know some writers like to experience certain situations, which makes writing their piece much easier. Could that be Eighner’s excuse? It’s easy for one to make assumptions about what it would be like dumpster diving, but it’s nothing like having a background.

A quote often used is, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” This describes Eighner’s feelings perfectly. At one point he stated, “People throw away perfectly good stuff, a lot of perfectly good stuff.”(384) This proves the point that once someone throws something away, it doesn’t mean it is trash, just ready for a change of ownership. Eighner few dumpster diving as an art because of all the cool stuff he finds on a regular. Things such as clothes, typewriters, love letters, ragdolls et cetera.


Example #3

“On Dumpster Diving”-by Lars Eighner, is a story of a man discussing his life being homeless and how he came to acquire his livelihood by scavenging through dumpsters, or in the author’s words; Dumpster Diving. The story begins with Eighner telling us, the readers about how he was always fascinated with the word dumpster before being homeless and also while being homeless; how he forged food, beverages, and other miscellaneous items in public dumpsters. Lars Eighner tells us nothing of how he became homeless, but he tells the life of him and his wife (Lizbeth) as Dumpster Divers.

In this passage, Eighner discusses the topics of shame and pride. I will write about both of these themes in two separate paragraphs while showing both are relevant to us as college students. “Dumpster Diving” talks about many college students and how wasteful they can be; especially when it is unnecessary. Lars Eighner said, “Students throw food away around breaks because they do not know whether it has spoiled or will spoil before they return”.

Eighner also says, “Some students, and others, approach defrosting a freezer by chucking out the whole lot”. (Page 22) The story of this man’s life is and should be humbling, also simultaneously a life lesson for us all to follow as an example of how to be frugal and appreciate all that we possess.

Pride. The theme of pride was the first topic Eighner discussed when referring to a dumpster diver. “At first the new scavenger is filled with disgust and self-loathing. He is ashamed of being seen and may lurk around”. Eighner- (Page 23) The scavenger or dumpster diver is showing that he or she has pride, although in need they are conscious of what society might think of them. Eighner also speaks of pride in a different sense as well. He shows us that by the refuse of others, the items being discarded is also pride in the ones that have more than enough.

To the readers, Eighner shows us their apathy for what they have and how they take it for granted; as if these things will always be available. Pride is a terrible thing to have at times. Society looks at those who ask for assistance or a helping hand as weak, but it takes a strong individual to set pride to the curve and ask for help. Just as the dumpster diver scavenging through the trash; although it seems disgusting, when in need one must do what one has to.

Shame. The next theme which was discussed was a shame but in a more subliminal way. Eighner- “I live from the refuse of others. I am a scavenger. I think it a sound and honorable niche”. (Page 20) Eighner always made the term dumpster diver seem elegant. This word for many would imply filthiness, and impoverished. Eighner subtly edifies the word to hide the shame that was felt from the memories of being homeless and eating out of the trash; one would naturally do the same as Eighner. Shame is something that is felt by all at different points in our lives just as the “divers” felt.

Eighner tells us that “While Lizbeth and I lived in a shack we began to eat from the dumpsters”. (Page 20) Eighner felt shame and embarrassment from the things he and Lizbeth were doing. While reading about this particular time in Eighner’s life, there is no way that anyone could not be humbled by his words. This way of living is well below modest; it is almost unreal the way he lived. It is impossible to fathom how this can be; and that is what Eighner wants us to realize. Eighner wants us as the readers to not see the trouble of people’s shame but the struggle from the shame, because we should appreciate where we are now, no matter how difficult life is or may seem; because it could always be worse.

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Pride and Shame. As we take a look at both themes Eighner shows how they both coincide in reference to the dumpster diver. In the life of a dumpster diver, Eighner explains how he felt pride and a sense of being in a better state of living as opposed to those more fortunate; and he explains how he felt shame as he was reduced to this decadence. In one particular memory, Eighner says, “Every bit of glass may be a diamond, they think, and all that glitters, gold”. (Page 24)

Now in this sense, Eighner talks about how particular dumpster divers take everything they see of some value and they go overboard; but nonetheless, they take pride in the things that others call trash. Eighner himself speaks of how he took pride in his vast findings. “I am grateful, however, for the number of good books and magazines the students throw out”. (Page 26)Although Eighner talks about the pride he shows us the shame that lies in dumpster diving and how they are closely related.

Eighner- “Dumpster diving is outdoor work, often surprisingly pleasant”. (Page 27) “I have no better place for her than a dumpster. And after all, it is fitting, since for most of her life her livelihood has come from the dumpster”. (Page 26) Now even though Eighner finds joy in his life, he also finds discomfort and embarrassment. Pride and Shame coincide and simultaneously differ; and the two emotions left Eighner ambivalent about him and Lizbeth’s future.

Conclusion. After reading “On Dumpster Diving” I am inclined to agree with Eighner, “Take what you can use and let the rest go”. (Page 27) In life if we use or take more than we truly need, we never learn the value of things nor do we learn to appreciate them. I believe this because I have been given so much in life and used so little, whether it was food, money, or time. I believe that we as Americans waste so much that we have forgotten the value of truly living and remembering others less fortunate; I know I have.

While reading this passage it has changed my outlook on life and how much I consume and will consume in the future. I believe I will use less and appreciate what I do have while encouraging others to do the same. Also while reading I felt remorse and sympathy for those less fortunate like Eighner. In conclusion, this story is very touching and uplifting. Eighner shows us that no matter what life may throw our way we can survive and beat the odds, no matter how much they are against us.


Example #4

In today’s society, there is an abundance of waste. This is clear in observing how people live, we often throw out items because we want something better. Lars Eighner, the author of “On Dumpster Diving,” writes about his experiences being homeless and how he survived on the waste of others. This provides insight into how the phrase “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure,” is true. Jeremy Seifert, who directed the documentary Dive! also talks about how he survives off of other people’s waste, but this was a decision he made.

As they tell of their experiences, Seifert and Eighner both come to the conclusion that society is wasteful. While both individuals provided good information, I believe Seifert presented the better argument.
Within the first four paragraphs, Eighner managed to alter the reader’s perception of the lifestyle he lives. The indignancy that he displayed when he was asked, “’ Do you think these crackers are really safe to eat?’,” also shows us that he takes pride in dumpster diving.

So much so that he gets angry when someone questions the safety of his food. His pride and in-your-face-intelligence make his paper less effective, in my opinion, because it makes him seem arrogant. Eighner’s argument was not as effective as it could have been because he focused more on defending himself personally instead of presenting the reader with more information on the issue. Had Eighner shifted his attention more towards the issue of food waste and society, rather than focusing on defending himself, he would have been more effective in his writing.

In Dive!, Seifert also defends his lifestyle, but for reasons different from Eighner. He does not do it to avoid the judgment of his life, but rather to bring attention to the problem that his documentary is trying to highlight. The way that he defends his life, however, does affect the effectiveness of his film. He presents himself in a very good light; he shows himself helping food banks and confronting local grocery stores to deal with the wasted food, but the way that he went about it was a little strange.


Example #5 – An Idea of Consumer Society in on Dumpster Diving by Lars Eighner

Lars Eighner’s essay “On Dumpster Diving” depicts the lifestyle and necessary steps in the art of scavenging. Homelessness is targeted as a negative connotation, but Eighner tries to maneuver these notions by showing contrasts in his personal experiences and irony depiction. Based on his own experiences, this personal essay contains evidence to show how Eighner targeted social class to make apparent claims about modern consumerism and materialism.

He begins to define what “dumpster diving” is and makes a correlation to scavenging as a way of survival. Furthermore, he described the technical difficulties of dumpster diving and makes hints as to what statues a scavenger. He also enumerates the stages of dumpster diving and concluded by making a direct link to consumer society. Students should read “On dumpster diving” by Lar Eighner because it makes the readers question the social norms of society and its correlation to material items.

Eighner demonstrates his point of view on consumer society, with the lack of empathy from the public toward the edible food being thrown out. Throughout his personal experiences, Eighner has come to the conclusion that there are positives in finding food in a dumpster and scavenging what was discarded. He stated that “A lot of perfectly good food can be found in dumpsters.” Therefore, he goes to discuss how the food is acquired through his multiple searching methods and that many of the foods found can be eaten with confidence.

The author also characterizes the idea of college students throwing food because that’s all that they know to do. He states, “Maybe the item was discarded through carelessness, ignorance, or wastefulness.” The idea of a wasteful society stems from the constant waste being thrown out every day without a valid reason. Consequently, Eighner is contrasting college students and consumerism not to degrade them, but to indicate the common trait many individuals have when on the topic of actually caring about the food you throw.

This is allowing Eighner to creatively establish his opinion while keeping the truth behind his idea. Furthermore, the assertion also can be seen as a connection to Eighner himself and how others might perceive him just as a dumpster diver and nothing else. Society does not know the story behind certain individuals similar to how schoolers don’t know when something is likely to spoil.

Eighner instills that dumpster diving fills a function in a consumer society and holding material goods is only part of the process. Therefore, Eighner wants readers to know that items have no sense of value no matter how rare they are. The idea of being socialized to think about the art of acquiring things, but what can be indicated as truly valuable?

Materialism arose from this idea due to a lack of definition of what would truly be seen as valuable. For that reason, Eighner believes there to be, “no value in the abstract”. This idea formulates the basis of not believing in material things seeing as mental ideas last longer. Consequently, Eighner realizes that scavenging is similar to self- reliance. That one has to be individually sufficient to live. Eighner also uses the contrast between the working class and the idea of competition to always wanting more. Eighner states that “between us are the rat-race millions who have confounded their selves with the objects they grasp.”

This examination of society consequently shows the reality of consumers and all of Eichner’s points lead up to this very moment. Therefore, he feels as though life is built on the essence of always wanting something else. Eighner makes connections to irony when indicating that the rich are still in the race when they already have enough as it is. Only people like dumpster divers would see the true irony being as they are the ones who are sorry for them in the end. These examples show how the power of inanimate objects can have on our lives and perceptions around us.

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To conclude, Eighner sets an idea of consumer society and how it controls society’s norms. He is trying to display the idea that the real problem is not the scavengers or the dumpster divers, it is the people perceiving the scavengers and dumpster divers. We should pay attention because this personal essay will aid readers in understanding personal material values and not socially directed matter.


Example #6

In the essay On Dumpster Diving, we read about Lars Eighner Who is a scavenger in the sense that he searches dumpsters for leftover items that can be of aid to him to enable him to eat or to have clothing to wear. In this essay, we see numerous rhetorical approaches to grab the reader’s attention as he conveys a story and a lifestyle that sheds light on an unknown profession. We immediately read about how knowledgeable and passionate the author is about this subject as he comes out almost challenging the Marriam-Webster dictionary on if the word Dumpster should be capitalized or not.

When I read Mr. Eighner, someone who scavenged for food on a daily basis, and yet at the same time was able to challenge the most reputable dictionary I was confident in my choice for my paper His expertise was unparalleled in that he could dictate exactly how to correctly and safely dumpster dive, and yet at the same time make you feel as if you were not reading an essay from someone who would have these types of personal experiences. In his writing, he writes long enough on how to correctly evaluate the food found in dumpsters I felt as though if I were to be put on the streets tomorrow I would know what to do.

He says that there are three principles to eating out of a Dumpster. He dictates that the first one is to use the senses and common sense to assess the condition of the found materials the second is to know the Dumpsters of a given area and lastly to answer the question of “why was it discarded? ” (par. 7). Here I see his intelligence quite vast as he is able to make up three tentative rules on Dumpster diving from personal experience. Later on, we see him discuss how to tell if canned food was good to eat. Most people assume that if it is still in a can it is good to eat, but this is not the case.

We write that canned foods should have some sort of a vacuum and that they should not be bulging, punctured, dented, or rusty (par. 10). This display of knowledge and intelligence is unrivaled and further proves his expertise. Later on, he continues to talk about food safety in which he says that dried food is usually the safest if there is no visible contamination on it (par. 12). His intelligence is once again shown when in the next paragraph he discusses what can be pared away in a vegetable and at what point it becomes too rotten to eat. He articulates that leafy vegetables are usually contaminated by liquids and hard to wash.

In these sentences about food safety, we are shown a clear and well-articulated rudimentary “textbook” on how to evaluate foods that may be available to eat and whether or not it is safe to eat. But Lars Eighner does not stop here. After moving on from food safety we see his expertise in his cunning ability to locate good and credible dumpsters, such as one behind a pizza parlor. We then read into why so many pizzas go to waste and are given enough factual evidence that we nearly forget we are reading this essay from someone who hasn’t even worked in the particular restaurant, yet knew very much about it (par. 18).

In the next paragraph, I read something that would not register to the average reader or one who might have not studied the text. He said that he had never placed a bogus order to the pizza parlor to receive a free pizza (par. 13). After reading over this a couple of times it leaned me two different thoughts, one was that he was an honest person, and the other that he trusted in his expertise and intelligence so much that he did not have to do something like that to get his next meal.

This put a lot of confidence in me that if I was thrown out on the streets with only this piece of writing I would be able to make him like Mr. Eighner. This essay or homemade textbook did not stop at food safety though. We are then informed about the different times of the year when people are more wasteful and likely to throw perfectly good food out. Lars Eighner shares that right after college breaks students are more likely to just throw everything out of the fridge in an attempt to become more clean and organized, which lends him some very good resources. (par. 20)

He continues on saying that when the parents or dads come to visit their kids they tend to throw everything out, including spirits, porn, and drugs. Students are many times more likely to be wasteful as they have a parent or adult pays for nearly every expense, so why would they care? With every paragraph in this essay, we are further convinced of Mr. Eighner’s intellectual superiority when it comes to eating out of a dumpster. He knows where to find the best dumpsters, what times are most successful to scavenge, and finally what safety precautions should be taken before eating.


Example #7 – The Deep Mistrust of Scavengers in on Dumpster Diving, an Article by Lars Eighner

There are certain stigmas associated with one’s occupation – often times undeservingly so. In “On Dumpster Diving”, Lars Eighner explores a niche that many consider shameful or even taboo. However, Eighner’s vocation goes beyond the elicited acrimony. Deep within societal norms, ingrained into our very bones, exists a tenacious aversion and a deep mistrust of scavengers. This resentment spurs the reader’s conjectures about Eighner, especially about his intellectual capabilities.

Ultimately, the reader’s unfair generalization of dumpster divers wrongfully undermines the unspoken pact of credibility between reader and writer. From the incited disgust towards dumpster divers, Lars Eighner acknowledges the need to establish his credibility. Thus, in his testimony of dumpster diving, Eighner heavily utilizes the rhetorical appeal of ethos in an effort to establish himself as a credible source and refute the reputation of him and his peers.

In glaring grey font, the conspicuous title “On Dumpster Diving” begins the essay with an appeal Darwin’s The Voyage of the Beagle – the precursor to On the Origin of Species. But the allusion goes further than just the homologous titles, rather Eighner structured his essay to mimic Darwin’s methodology of hypothetical-speculation. Like Darwin, Eighner based many of his conclusions on observations rather than conventional induction based experiments.

Through the indirect interrogation of locational analysis and careful timing, Eighner surmises his personal experiences into a single set of guidelines governing dumpster diving. Ultimately, this emulation of inquiry employs the rhetorical strategy of ethos – namely the appeal to authority, in this case, Darwin – which in turn earns the author much-needed credibility.

Like Darwin, Eighner introduces the reader to the area he frequents as exemplary locational analysis. He addresses this within the first two sentences: directly stating “I’m not here by chance”, but rather because the region is “inhabited by many affluent college students” who are prodigally generous in what they throw away. Evidently, his methodical tactic of scavenging in that location has been lucrative where the “typical discard is a half a jar of peanut butter”. And to further prove the returns on his investment, Eighner meticulously tabulates his findings boasting of intermittently still-hot pizzas, yogurts and cheeses, canned goods and staples, alcoholic beverages, and even non-tangible items such as drugs or pornography.

Thus, the assumption the audience makes is that the author’s excursions have been exceedingly profitable relative to other dumpster divers, and Eighner partially attributes his success to his locational analysis. Like Darwin taking credit for navigating the H.M.S. Beagle to Galápagos Archipelago, Eighner similarly takes credit for strategically selecting the location of his pursuit.

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Beyond Eighner’s geographical certainty of his profit region, much of his success derives from paying careful attention to the integral academic calendar. With an allusion to the strategic timing of Darwin’s journey, the author similarly profits from deducing that students will “throw away food around the breaks” if there exists uncertainty in perishability. Thus arises Eighner’s cornucopia of yogurts, cheeses, and sour cream, along with the ubiquitous jars of peanut butter.

Beyond his cocktail various dairy products, “at the end of semesters and when students give up college at midterms”, Eighner collects on his biannual bonus of canned foods and staples. From Eigner’s deposition in his essay, rather than just attributing his dumpster diving successes to solely favorable timing, he couples his investigation of the science with Darwin’s observations with the Galapagos finches. Though what Darwin observed may seem irrelevant to the seasonal purge of cabinets and refrigerators, much of his observations of Galapagos finches were dependent upon seasonal changes.

Darwin planned for his expedition to arrive at the Galapagos in drought-like conditions, specifically, during the waning portion of the dry-season. Thus, when he began his documentation of the mating behavior of Galapagos finches, due to the heavy constraint in resources, only a select group of the fittest could afford to forgo foraging to mate. He arrived at the ideal time to observe natural selection. Because of their similarities in successful timing, Eighner equates his dumpster diving with Darwin’s observations in the Galapagos – accrediting himself by an appeal to authority.

However, Eighner’s rhetorical strategy of ethos goes beyond the mere emulation of Darwin’s scientific thought, but his scientific nomenclature as well. By deliberately calling himself a ‘scavenger’, he alludes to the stone age, predominantly the late Paleolithic and early Neolithic eras, when Homo erectus and Neanderthals evolved into Homo sapiens. To further flaunts his incessant need for precision in his diction, Eighner goes as far as cite the dictionary and grammar rules.

Evident from his two-sentence introduction to dumpster diving, he cites the “Merriam-Webster research service” for his expository on the origin of the word dumpster – “a proprietary word belonging to the Dempsey Dumpster company”. Cogitating the search result, he declares that he “dutifully capitalized the word” like proper nouns should be – correcting Merriam-Webster’s lack of accuracy – and complacently flaunts his grammatical correctness.

Continuing on his crusade of vocabulary justice, he points out several inaccuracies of diction: “‘Dumpster Diving’ seems a little too cute and inaccurate”, and the word ‘foraging’ is reserved “for gathering nuts and berries”. And by being so deliberate in his terminology, Eighner places himself in a position of academic superiority, diverging from the rest of the world that fails to capitalize dumpster, that evades the “frankness of the word ‘scavenging’,” convincing the audience of his academic credibility (87).

Beyond the cocktail of scavenging adventures and addressing vocabulary inaccuracies, Eighner surprises the reader with a little bit of chemistry. As Eighner so eloquently put, candy, “especially hard candy, is usually safe”. Underlying this piece of advice is the covert reference to osmotic potential, that bacteria and pathogens alike cannot survive in “very sugary substances”. Addressing the possibility of food poisoning, Eighner even offers perspective on the neurotoxin Botulism, a fatal and asymptomatic toxin that occurs as a byproduct of modern canning methods.

Simple prevention care methods include heat, which “can break down the botulin” into harmless denatured versions of the toxin. From the agglomerate of these bits and pieces of scientific wisdom, Eighner convinces us of his intellectual prowess and thus his credibility. Throughout his essay, Eighner has proven himself to be more than the intellectually incapable, detestable dumpster diver people suppose him to be, but instead savvy and rigorously methodical.

Though some might regardlessly consider his honorable niche shameful or taboo, his approach to dumpster diving was highly commensurable with Darwin’s scientific hypothetical-interrogation. Alternatively, his guidelines could serve as a measure of the stigmas he has overcome. Ultimately, Eighner’s unconventional perspective to life probes the question not of differences but of how impetuously and unjustly we rely on convention and conjectural speculation.


Example #8 – interesting ideas

What are some pros and cons of dumpster diving? Also, how does it compare with regular grocery shopping? I have to do a compare/contrast essay and need help setting up the basics.

Answer. I think it is illegal in most places. Also taboo. But I wish it wasn’t. The other day I saw some employees from a clothing outlet throwing bags of brand new clothing in a nearby dumpster. I wanted to come back later and go through it but did not have time.

There are many large pros to dumpster diving and they definitely outway the cons. You can use perfectly good things that might need a little washing but other than that perfectly good. And it frees up lots of space in landfills. Why are we so wasteful in these “wonderful” and “developed” countries?? People here do not seem to know how to respect our precious natural resources or how to be resourceful and make something last twice as long or practically live on nothing if the situation called for it. And it soon will.

People say they feel sorry for people who grew up poor. But I was not really “poor”. I had what matters most. And I developed much better values and tactics for living with very little that comes in very handy. I am thankful for my upbringing because of this. How does it compare with regular grocery shopping?? I would never dumpster dive for food. Clothes and other items, yes. I also find some wonderful things left at the curbside. This is called scavenging and is illegal in my city unless you have a permit which costs you $100. But I recommend doing it anyway.

As far as groceries, if you save as much as you can, living very frugally, you can do quite well and eat very healthily. The food I buy is not cheap but I make up for it by not spending a whole lot on other things. I volunteer my time with environmental organizations. I make friends there and this networking pays off. There is also a freecycle. And I compost and have an organic garden. I do quite a bit of my shopping at our local farmers market and this cuts out the middle man of the warehouse, truckers, etc. I buy very little from the grocery store and I think I am very healthy. I have not seen the doctor for any medical problems in years.

So i need to do comparisons with regular shopping and dumpster diving? Can anyone think of any except that they both include time? I’m doing a compare and contrast essay, PLEASE how do they compare?

Night vs day. Front of store vs back of the store (or along streets) stealth vs. however you behave whenever you’re in a shop Crappy clothes, gloves, sneakers, flashlight, vs normal clothes Leave your purse wallet in the car vs. take it with you leave the car running, trunk unlocked vs locking it up and leaving it to ask around for synonyms for “dumpster diving”, like “curb crawling” vs. “shopping” (check the thesaurus for that) probably not going to find clothes in dumpsters……. I’ve found curtains, shades, blinds, stools, toys, excellent new rug remnants. I never did food, but you could go there with the comparing.


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