Digging for Gold

Two young men rummage through a large steel container, as a nearby door suddenly swings open. The two men bolt down the street to escape.

This is not a bank robbery, but rather a fairly common occurrence in the city of McKinney – this is dumpster diving.

“I’ve dumpster dived probably… twelve times,” says Addison, who’s asked for his identity to remain anonymous.

“One time we made a huge score, and found an entire duffel bag’s worth of albums from the 70s.”

Addison has been scalping tossed away goods for years, and continues to do so to this day.

It’s not without its risks, however. A state ordinance in McKinney that pertains to solid waste states in section 86-36 that “meddling with garbage, recyclables, rubbish, brush or collection containers or receptacles by any person other than the owner, occupant or authorized agent is prohibited.”

While prohibited by law in the city, McKinney has seen a recent spike in dumpster diving occurrences, specifically at a string of stores located off of Highway 75 and Eldorado Parkway, with targets usually being GameStop or Half Price Books

“[It happens] more than we would like,” says Emily Bruce, in charge of corporate communications at Half Price Books.

“While [the trash] may appear usable to people, it’s in there for a reason. We don’t want injuries.”

Half Price Books has supposedly gone to destroying the items in the dumpster, according to Addison. After nearly escaping being caught one night, Addison returned to the dumpster hours later one night.

“We came back around two in the morning,” Addison says. “And the albums… they were all soaked in water. It warped the covering and all the albums… we think that was intentional.”

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These businesses, with their often valuable trash, have seen a spike in dumpster divers

 

With limited space inside the stores, these businesses have no choice but to leave their dumpsters sitting out back, which gives easy access to would-be trash thieves.

While many argue against the policies on the grounds of not letting products go to waste, Half Price Books’ Emily Bruce says they do their best to make good use of unsellable or discarded merchandise.

“[We] try and donate everything we can that we cannot sell – we try and recycle books in that case.”

The dumpster divers themselves point out they still see perfectly usable items in the dumpster with alarming frequency.

“I found a copy of Final Fantasy VII,” Addison says, speaking of his hauls.

“My friend found a copy of Grand Theft Auto Vice City.”

Addison’s friend, Mason, joins him on occasion in scouring trash receptacles.

“I could understand if it was like a nuisance, like they were scaring people or leaving a mess,” says Mason, talking about his thoughts on laws against his hobby.

“It’s not causing much harm… I don’t see the real reason [for the laws].”

Both Mason and Addison continue dumpster diving to this day, and McKinney businesses have yet to come up with an effective solution.

Emily Bruce says when catching someone digging through Half Price Books’ garbage, their policy is to simply “ask them to please stop.” That policy might change soon, given its apparent ineffectiveness.

Not a single ticket or arrest has been issued in McKinney for dumpster diving in the last five years, but with the growing popularity of the hobby, that may change, and fairly soon.

 

Interviews of the dumpster divers can be found here.

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