Dumpster dives tend to show up three ways in fiction. The first is the homeless person going in to get leftover food,useable items or metal goods like pop cans to sell for money. The second is average characters going in because they dropped something and have to retrieve it. Crime shows are the prime source of the third, which is going in to get evidence, weapons or even a body. Often leads to finding a MacGuffin
or Plot Coupon
. If played for laughs, the character may wind up being picked up with the trash and carried away. The aftermath often involves complaints about the smell, which sometimes even several showers can't remove.
Not to be confused with Down in the Dumps
, but this can end there if the character is unlucky enough to get picked up with the trash.
Compare and contrast with Trash Landing
, though that in itself is not a Dumpster Dive
. That's when the character happens to land in a Dumpster or other trash, while Dumpster Dive
is going into the Dumpster intentionally to get something.
Literal Junk Food
is a subtrope.
- Shows up in many a CSI: Crime Scene Investigation fanfic, often with someone getting threatened with dumpster duty for not behaving or a character repaying a favor by taking the next few dumpster dives.
[[folder:Live Action TV]]
- Angel did it once, with Angel scrounging for rats in the Dumpster.
- CSI: Crime Scene Investigation used it several times.
- One in particular was a girl who dropped her trash can into a dumpster from a dorm trash chute. While she fell in after she was crushed by a car and died, there was a dive to look for evidence later.
- Sara was doing this just before Grissom's return from his absence in season 7. He was so glad to see her that he didn't care she smelled like garbage.
- CSI NY had a weapon search in one. Lindsay was still new to the show, and complained about the 'rookie doing the dirty work' stuff getting old. But she did find the shotgun.
- One episode of How I Met Your Mother showed Marshall having a minor breakdown after the death of his father, thinking he's wasting his life as a corporate lawyer when he grew up wanting to be an environmental lawyer. He ends up diving into a dumpster to find the plastic rings from a six-pack Lily bought him.
- In Roc, the main character is a garbageman and uses his job to supply the house with much of the things it needs. In the pilot he's shown with a day-old newspaper ("Hey, this isn't USA Today, it's USA Yesterday.") and he picks up a broken VCR which his friend Wizz fixes for him - but you have to hold the play button down at all times in order to watch a video.
- This is how a Junk Man/Rag And Bone Man such as those seen on Steptoe And Son & Sanford and Son gets much of his wares.
- On 2 Broke Girls, Max and Caroline have to look through their trash after accidentally throwing away Earl's tax returns.
- In an episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, London and Arwin do this when looking for a brooch London had borrowed from Maddie for a party, only to lose it. They also encounter a homeless person who wonders what they're doing in his dumpster. The next day, (after London and Arwin failed to find the brooch) the homeless guy shows up at the hotel revealing that he found the brooch.
- The Firefly episode "Trash" had the crew, along with Saffron trying to steal an incredibly valuable antique gun from a highly secure private home, which they do by dumping it down the garbage chute and reprogramming the automated dumpster to fly out to the middle of the desert where they could pick it up. Saffron eventually betrays them then goes to pick up the loot herself. She is next seen inside the dumpster looking for it, except Inara got there first and already has it. She then seals the dumpster with Saffron inside to wait for the authorities while Serenity makes their getaway.
- The Everybody Loves Raymond episode "Diamonds" concludes with Ray and Debra sifting through a dumpster to find Debra's engagement ring, after Ray had previously gotten rid of it to replace with a better one.
- The Seinfeld episode "The Bottle Diposit" features a montage of Kramer and Newman collecting various empty bottles and cans, including resorting to dumpster diving, to collect refund money for recycling them.
- The Dollhouse episode "Briar Rose" begins with a homeless man digging through a dumpster....only to understandably freaked out upon the discovery of a human hand.
- Done in the Moonlighting episode "Atlas Belched", where David has to go dumpster-diving to find a lost rolodex for a client.
- One episode of Diagnosis: Murder had a couple of cops trying to get rid of a time bomb that had been planted in their car by throwing it in a dumpster. Then they had to go back, because some homeless guy saw them and decided to go see what they'd tossed in. They manage to get him away before it explodes, but soon after they guy throws up in the back seat. It was a brand-new car, too.
- The music video to the song "Remains" features the "Human Doll" being thrown out by her "Owner" after she is burnt, whereupon a homeless man pulls her out of the dumpster and the two walk away, hand-in-hand. Its somewhere between sweet and creepy.
- In Genius The Transgression, the "Dumpster Diver" merit improves a character's ability to build things on the spot, presumably by using this trope.
- In Borderlands, dumpsters are one of the containers which can be opened (they usually contain ammo and money, but sometimes contain cheap guns). One quest involves retrieving a character's Porn Stash from several of them.
- Gaia Online: there's a "mini-game" called this where users can donate and obtain unwanted items to the dumpster.
- In Genius: The Transgression, the "Dumpster Diver" merit improves a character's ability to build things on the spot, presumably by using this trope.
- The Anaksha Mini-Adventures have the title vigilante assassin doing this on a number of occasions to get the items she needs for each game's Chain of Deals.
- In the My Sims: Agents videogame you need to do this to find clues for cases.
- in online game Billy Vs. Snakeman, people who are in a village, and have access to Burgerninja content, can do this as an ingredient hunt for combine-able items that later help later on.
- In The Sims 2, sims who have a sloppy personality are able to rummage through bins, while in The Sims 3, sims who are members of the police can look through others' rubbish bins for evidence.
- Megatokyo: Largo does this to find computer components.
- Real Life: Freeganism is an offshoot of veganism that supports, among other things, dumpster diving to avoid wasting food in order to live more sustainably.
- Dumpster diving is a living in Manshiyat Naser, whose residents live off Cairo's garbage, making it one of Cracked's The 6 Weirdest Cities People Actually Live In.