College Move-Out Days: The Best Time to Dumpster Dive?
Ah spring, sweet spring. The flowers are opening their colorful buds, birds are chirping, and across the country, thousands of college students are throwing out working electronics, unopened containers of food, and other perfectly useful items.
It's the same routine every year. Harried college students, rushing to pack and move out while completing finals or preparing for graduation, don't have time to sell or give away their excess stuff, or they simply don't care that it goes to waste. The result is that during finals week on through graduation, campus dumpsters and the sidewalks in college towns are rife with serviceable stuff often in excellent condition. (See also: Waste Not, Want Not: Stop Throwing Away Your Food!)
In other words, if you live near a college, it's a great time to go dumpster diving.
When I was in college, I loved walking around the dorms and scoring free stuff as everyone was moving out. Some memorable finds include several almost-full bottles of cleaning products, clothing, and lots of great household-organizing equipment. I also have friends who have scored furniture, televisions, and other big-ticket items previously owned by college kids.
If you're thinking of poking around your local college campus for freebies, here are some things to keep in mind.
Some Colleges Donate (or Sell) Unwanted Items
While you don't want to announce to a college that you'll be picking through its trash, it's good to call or do a Google search for the particular college you're planning to visit before you go over there. Over the last few years, several schools have recognized the rampant wastefulness that occurs around move-out time, and they've developed efforts to collect unwanted items and give them to charity. Thus, these schools might yield slim pickings at the dumpsters, or anything you take might've otherwise gone to help those in need.
Some schools also sell items they collect and give the money to charity instead of the goods. Keep an eye out for these sales in your town; you can still get great stuff at a substantial discount.
This Stuff Belonged to College Students
There's a reason why the stereotypical college apartment contains a lumpy couch fixed with duct tape — some college students don't take great care of their stuff, and that stuff has sometimes come to them second- or third-hand already. Make sure you carefully check everything you're planning to take.
It Can Pay to Go More Than Once
The weekend after finals is usually the best time to look; that's when most students leave. Check the academic calendar of your local college to find out when this is. But also keep in mind that some students may leave early if their finals are concentrated in the beginning of the week, or stay late for graduation or other activities. Visiting more than once can be fruitful.
Colleges Are Usually Private Property
If you're not a student of the school, never enter buildings just to pick through items that might be inside. Your safest bet is to visit schools or areas where students live in town where trash is put out on public streets. When in doubt, err on the side of caution. For more information about the law and dumpster diving, read Kentin's great post, Dumpster Diving 101.
Do you ever go dumpster diving on college campuses? Do you have any stories of particularly great finds? Share them in the comments!