5 Basic Rules of Dumpster Diving (according to me)
1. Dive during the day, if you can. It looks less suspicious then being parked up behind a business in the middle of the night. Sunday mornings work really well.
2. Park in a parking and walk to your dumpster, if you can. It makes it look less like you are dumping trash illegally.
3. Do not make a mess, and if there is already a mess when you get there - it doesn't hurt the cause of dumpster divers everywhere to clean it up.
4. Do not argue with employees or police, EVER. Employees will tell you to leave the property and not come back - and once they do that, you're trespassing if you DO return, so don't give them the opportunity. Police will arrest you if you argue with them. I suggest not inflaming them in any way, and leaving when they tell you to.
5. If you hurt yourself, do everyone a favor - DON'T EVEN TRY TO FILE A LAWSUIT! You'll ruin diving for everyone and we'll all hate you.
Tips and Tricks of Dumpster Diving (according to me)
1. If you don't want to actually get in a dumpster, have a long handled tool to pull things out with. I use a gardening tool with tines on one side and a hoeing edge on the other. The handle is about two feet. I bought it at Big Lots for $3.
2. Bring a bag for your loot.
3. Wear gloves and bring sanitizer, just in case. Sometimes there's yucky stuff in dumpsters.
4. Don't be afraid to dig into individual bags - a lot of good stuff goes in them. Restaurants in particular will often have several small bags inside of a larger bag - and often those small bags is where the good stuff is.
5. If you do want to actually get in a dumpster, wear jeans and sturdy boots or shoes! Dumpsters are often littered with broken glass and other dangerous objects, so be smart and don't try to do it in shorts.
6. Inform yourself of laws governing dumpster diving in your area. In Austin, TX, where I am, dumpster diving is not illegal unless you dive in an Austin Municipal dumpster, or any of the dumpsters at the State Capitol. Trespassing, however, IS illegal. Usually, you are not considered to be trespassing unless the area is posted with a Do Not Trespass sign, or unless a property owner or an employee representing the owner tells you to leave the property and not to come back. Don't expect cops to know what is or is not legal, and I don't advise trying to inform them if they stop and question you. Even if they can't make a charge stick, police are quite capable of arresting you, handcuffing you, putting you in a police car, having your car towed and taking you in for booking if you annoy them. So don't - even if you are completely sure that what you're doing is perfectly legal.
A couple of random points :
1. For some reason, all store employees hate dumpster divers. They seem to think that you are stealing what they would have to buy. Be on alert for them, because some of them will call the cops on you the instant they see you.
2. If you want to risk eating food that you find in dumpsters (and who hasn't, occasionally?) be smart. Be aware that diving in the winter is different from diving in the summertime. Be aware that some foods can make you sick even if they smell and look good. And never, EVER give dumpster food to anyone without telling them where you got it. It's one thing to take risks on your own behalf, no matter how minimal, but it's rude to make that decision for someone else.
3. Some people think that people who dig around in the garbage are crazy. That's their opinion, and they have a right to it. If that bothers you, either be prepared to keep your diving a secret, or just don't dive.