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Dumpster diving, or trash picking, is recovering discarded items. Businesses often have dumpsters for refuse, hence the term dumpster diving. Recovered, or "dumpstered" materials can include electronics, clothing, food, appliances—anything that is sold is likely to eventually thrown away. Dumpster diving reduces the need to support harmful business practices (e.g. agribusiness) by reducing consumerism, and it reduces the amount of waste in landfills. Some people in first world countries live almost exclusively off of dumpster diving. Some groups, such as [[Food Not Bombs|Food Not Bombs]]W make use of dumpstered food to prepare and serve wholesome meals for the homeless or anyone who is hungry—thus the group makes a statement about the wastefulness of the capitalist system while protesting militarism and simultaneously providing a needed service.
Stores frequently throw out the goods they sell for a variety of reasons. Items that have damaged or dirty packaging, for example, are discarded rather than sold. If a in a box of jars breaks or leaks, the entire box will be unsaleable—it ends up in the dumpster. Sometimes shelf space is more valuable than the goods on it—it would actually cost store owners more to keep the items than to throw them away.
Grocery stores are a plentiful source of food—despite the common reactions of horror to the idea of dumpster diving food, many dumpster divers live exclusively and safely off of dumpstered food. Stores often throw out food that was on their shelves for sale just hours earlier, and even food that has hit its expiration date is frequently still edible and healthy.
Electronics stores may have items like computers and printers in their dumpsters. Drug stores throw out goods like candy and personal care items. Warehouses and places like bread factories may also discard goods.
The end of the school year when students must vacate dormitories, known as "Hippie Christmas" or "Dormster diving", is a particularly lucrative time for dumpster divers. Students who are moving often do not have much space to transport their stuff or much time in which to get packed, so they end up throwing a lot out, perhaps figuring they'll buy new stuff next semester. College kids, generally a relatively wealthy group, tend to throw out working and undamaged goods—electronics and appliences found during Hippie Christmas are often found to be in working order. This time of year is thought of as the harvest for hard core dumpster divers: they reap a crop of food, clothing, electronics, books, cleaning supplies, toiletries and other necessities and live off them for the year. Dedicated dormster divers can easily collect enough to last them until the next Hippie Christmas. Some people take this a step farther by organizing distribution programs such as free stores to get the discarded items to people and places that can use them.
Some colleges are tolerant of dumpster divers and some are hostile.
Trashwiki.org is a wiki dedicated to dumpster diving.