Just the words “Dumpster Diving” cause me to cringe. When I think of jumping in a dumpster I think of being homeless or crazy freegans who eat bagels out of the panera dumpster. That kind of dumpster diving is not what I’m talking about. Actually, I’m not even referring to your average trash holding, stink infested dumpster. I am talking about newspaper recycling bins. I call them recycle bins just to make myself feel better, but the truth is, they really are huge dumpsters. The difference is, they only hold newspapers, and are generally very clean.
I started visiting my local recycling center on a weekly basis after seeing Joanie (aka The Krazy Coupon Lady, one of my favorite blogs) from TLC’s Extreme Couponing getting in a dumpster to collect coupon inserts from discarded newspapers, with her kids no less. You can check it out on YouTube if you missed her segment on the show.
If you want to try this extreme way to get some more coupons, there’s a few things to remember:
- Do not get inside the dumpster. Although Joanie in the video above got inside the dumpster, this is against the law in many cases, it is dangerous, and you’ll probably ruin it for the rest of us. So don’t do it. Joanie only did this because the show’s producers asked her to, to make the segment more dramatic and “extreme”.
- Ask, then bribe. Yes, I said bribe! lol! There’s almost always someone who is responsible for supervising the bins at the recycle center. It’s a really good idea to ask this person if it’s ok that you reach in the bin to get inserts. Its also a really good idea to sweeten the deal so they start to see you as a friendly face instead of someone who is disrupting the flow of things. Here’s a great example, the other day it was 95 degrees here in Florida, so when I went to the center to pull some inserts, I brought the grizzly, old recycling center guy a big, ice cold bottle of water. Now I have a friend for life. I have to give my dad credit for teaching me this trick.
- Leave the kids at home. They get antsy, irritated and will probably drive you crazy. If you must take the kids, it helps to give them a job so they stay occupied while you’re digging.
- Lay low. My goal when I’m at the center is to not disrupt the recycle guy in any way, because I don’t want him to get irritated and change his mind about allowing me to pick. I also don’t want to make it difficult for people to dump their newspapers in the bin. They should not be interrupted by anyone digging for coupons. The newspaper bin at my center is one of those huge, 20 foot trailers that is about 10 feet high. It has multiple “windows” in the sides that can be opened or closed. My center keeps a few open to allow for the coupon ladies to dig, and residents to still be able to dump their newspapers. If your center had a trailer like mine, and they only have one window open, now might be a good time to make your case to the recycling attendant about opening 2 windows instead, to allow for dumping, and picking.
- If you don’t recycle already, this is a great time to start. Bring your recyclables already separated, including all your used newspapers from the previous week with you when you come to pick. I have reduced my household trash by about half since I started dumpster diving. That means I’m paying for half as many trash bags! Cha-ching!
- After you’ve thoroughly bribed your recycle guy, ask him when the newspaper bin gets emptied. This will let you know when you should come to dig. You want to make sure you give people a change to get their papers to the center & so the level of papers in the bin will be high enough that you can reach them. At my center, the bin gets dumped on Sunday, so I usually find that picking for inserts on Wednesday or Friday tends to work out best for me.
- Bring something to put the inserts in as you find them. I made the mistake the first time I went to just stack the inserts on the ground next to me as I pulled them out of the bin. That was a great idea until the wind picked up and took the inserts with it. That wasn’t the best example of laying low.
I never thought in a million years I’d be digging through a dumpster. But when I’m able to walk away from a 10 minute trip to the recycle center with $100 plus worth of coupons, it’s worth it. It’s those multiples of the same coupon that allows me to purchase a larger amount of a product that is on sale.
I do have to put this in there as a disclaimer. It is a good idea to double check on your state and local laws about dumpster diving before you start. If you choose to pick, you do so at your own risk. So be smart and use common sense. This is another reason its a good idea to ask the recycle guy before you start, even if you have seen other couponers doing it at your center. If you haven’t personally asked, then you don’t personally have permission.