In which a crazy pregnant lady goes dumpster diving

It all started out innocently enough.  With the warmer temps, I spent some time cleaning our sun porch on Friday in preparation for being able to use it again soon.

In the process of breaking down a cardboard box for recycling, I pulled off the packing tape, and since I was already outside on my way to the recycling bin at that point, I decided to put the tape directly into the trash dumpster.  I opened the dumpster lid and saw a bunch of brand new looking books.

Unable to just close the lid and go on with my life knowing that some perfectly good books were headed for the landfill, I started pulling them out and piling them on top of the dumpster.

I found about 20 middle school teachers’ guide math texts that looked like they’d never been used.  In the dumpster!  I was tempted to just leave the books piled on top of or next to the dumpster and hope that someone would come along and rescue them, but, realistically, people only tend to pick up furniture and other large objects.

If I left them there, they would probably just sit and end up getting water damage from rain, and then they really would be trash. So I brought them inside in two huge armfuls, found a box in the basement as a temporary home, and posted them on ReUseItStLouis (formerly known as FreeCycle).

They had not generated much interest by Saturday, when I made the mistake of visiting the dumpster again (with another small trash item).  Guess what?  More books!  Same topic and condition as the books from Friday — clearly the same culprit.

My shoulders sagged in defeat.  I could (and did) pull out these books, but this is one dumpster, in one alley, in one city, and I’m one person.  Every day, all across our country, perfectly good and usable items, like these books, get sent to the landfill.

I understand that taking the time to find new homes for items we no longer want does require some effort and can be frustrating, we just went through it with our couch, but taking the time and effort is part of being a responsible consumer.

In this case, the books I rescued would be perfect for a math tutor or a family that home schools.  While this story is not finished yet, I received two emails about the books, including one from a person who seemed very interested.  If all goes well, the books may have a new home by the end of the day, which would turn my distressed expression in the photo into a smile.


  1. EcoCatLady says:

    Ha! I’m so glad to learn that I’m not the only crazy dumpster diver out there. I think my finest dumpster dive (at least the most amusing) was when I discovered a whole pile of landscaping rocks in the dumpster. Somebody was throwing away perfectly good rocks! I actually ended up climbing into the dumpster to retrieve them, but they have been gracing my xeriscape ever since. Unfortunately, they’ve taken away our dumpsters and replaced them with single family trash cans… it’s bad because I can’t dumpster dive anymore, but it’s good because the recycling rate in my neighborhood more than doubled when people no longer had unlimited trash space. I think they should have special dumpsters for re-usable items, and a charity store could pick them up each week.

    Good for you for rescuing those books from oblivion, you get a gold star!

    1. Melissa @ HerGreenLife says:

      Fortunately, the books were on top of a decent bit of other trash, so I was able to lean in and grab them pretty easily. Having some kind of limit on trash space might encourage people to put a little more effort into finding an alternative option. In the meantime, I’m afraid to go near the dumpster, not knowing what distressing “trash” I’ll find next!

  2. TS says:

    I am going a long way in reducing my grocery bill by retrieving sealed and recently expired goods from dumpsters in NC.

    My blog —>

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