PLA’s Dumpster Diving Page

/dump’-ster di:’-ving/ n.

1.The practice of sifting refuse from an office or technical installation to extract confidential data, especially security-compromising information (`dumpster’ is an Americanism for what is elsewhere called a `skip’). Back in AT&T’s monopoly days, before paper shredders became common office equipment, phone phreaks used to organize regular dumpster runs against phone company plants and offices. Discarded and damaged copies of AT&T internal manuals taught them much. The technique is still rumored to be a favorite of crackers operating against careless targets.

2.The practice of raiding the dumpsters behind buildings where producers and/or consumers of high-tech equipment are located, with the expectation (usually justified) of finding discarded but still-valuable equipment to be nursed back to health in some hacker’s den. Experienced dumpster-divers not infrequently accumulate basements full of moldering (but still potentially useful) cruft.


Welcome to PLA’s dumpster diving page. Dumpster Diving, of course, means going through a company’s trash to get all kinds of goddies such as discarded manuals & important sounding papers to aid you in your destruction of the phone company. But why limit yourself to just phone companies? You can get all kinds of neat-o stuff from any business. This page is still slightly under construction, but will grow as I get time to work on it or if someone gives me something useful to put on here. (hint hint)

Cool Things Found While Diving

This is a list of some of the coolest (and lamest) things people have found while diving. A lot of this was taken from alt.dumpster and a few are from personal experience and friends’ stories.

I have found prints, lithographs, paintings, pictures, and silkscreens in residential dumpsters. Student artists moving out, people redecorating, etc.. I keep what I like and I sell the rest. I’ve given canvases to friends to paint over. It’s kind of odd appreciating somebodys work you’ve never met, just pulling it out of the dumpster. -Greg

Another pair of almost new Levis, these fit my husband. I used to love to shop; now I just wait until we find whatever it is I think I need. Plus 3 Hanes Pocket T shirts still in packages (navy blue). One of those leaf-blower gizmos (electric, not gas). It works, although the switch is strange: off is on and on is off. -Lurce

I’m 14 and almost every week me and my friends go out to the local post office and i go dumpster diving while one of my friends watches for the cops. I get into the big dumpster and look for piles of envelopes or recognizable envelopes. I go as fast as i can and pick a letter at a time and just feel it to see if its got a card in it or not. One night i found around 10 blockbuster gift cards with 50$ on them and the activation code. I have also found phone cards with activation codes. I like peed my pants when i found one of these. I also have found mambership cards and other junk like discounts on hotels and also gas cards for money off gas. One card i found is for when ur car breaks down and there is a number on the card that u can only call 3 times and everytime u call it, it charges the person 80$! I thought that would be hilarious to pull on somebody. -kyle aka the cookie monster

Newspaper & Magazine Articles

May 9, 1997

Lawmakers try to protect companies in vote to garbage espionage – By DIANE SCARPONI (AP)

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – A trashy issue has generated a little publicity at the state Capitol. Members of the House, some holding their noses, Thursday by a 75-63 vote approved a bill entitled “An Act Concerning Dumpster Diving.” While many lawmakers from both parties decided not to get downwind of the bill, supporters argued it was necessary to stop companies from waging dirty campaigns against competitors – by digging through their trash for trade secrets.

Rep. Robert Farr, R-West Hartford, called the bill a “fascinating lesson in the legislative process.” “Had it not had such a great, creative name, it might not have attracted the notice it has,” said Farr, who voted for it.

The bill would add “Dumpster diving” to a list of much more high-tech forms of corporate espionage, such as computer hacking and wiretapping, that are banned under trade secret protection laws. A company that has been the victim of Dumpster diving, and whose trade secrets were used against them, would have the right to injunctive relief in Superior Court. These companies also could sue for punitive damages.

Companies have advertised their Dumpster diving expertise in trade journals and on the Internet. One site on the World Wide Web even shows people how to reconstruct shredded documents, Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven. “This is a real problem for many businesses in the state,” said Lawlor. “This is a fundamental protection that ought to be afforded them.”

Many lawmakers simply threw up their hands at the bill, while others offered legal research to back up their “no” votes. Rep. Richard Tulisano, D-Rocky Hill, said court decisions have shown people have no right to privacy to the trash they throw out. “Why the business community should be protected and you and I are not protected is beyond me,” Tulisano said, in urging his colleagues to reject the bill.

Other Dumpster Diving Sites& Related Interest Links

  • Marduk’s Guide to Garbage Digging Cool site.
  • The Recycle & Reuse Page A page supporting recycling & dumpster diving. Read the Dumpster Diving FAQ here & live chat with other divers.
  • The Art & Science of Dumpster Diving
  • Dumpster Diving Reaps Many Benefits This is more or less a journalism article that a student wrote, but it’s pretty good.
  • Frugal Living Tip File: Dumpster Diving This is a page of usenet posts concerning dumpster diving. Good stuff.
  • PLA Issue 4 PLA’s original trashing & looting issue. Good information for a novice diver.

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