Created By: chicagomel on April 17, 2012 Last Edited By: lu127 on December 31, 2012
Troped

Dumpster Dive

Retrieving an item from the trash.

Name Space:
Main
Page Type:
Trope
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.

[[folder:Fan Works]]
  • Shows up in many a CSI 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]]

[[folder:Live Action TV]]
  • Angel did it once, with Angel scrounging for rats in the Dumpster.
  • CSI 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.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Music]]
  • 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.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
  • In Genius: The Transgression, the "Dumpster Diver" merit improves a character's ability to build things on the spot, presumably by using this trope.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Game]]
  • 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.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Webcomics]]
  • Megatokyo: Largo does this to find computer components.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation]]
  • The Bad Future episode of The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron showed that Sheen became a dumpster diver.
  • In the Batman Beyond episode "The Eggbaby," Terry leaves behind a computerized eggbaby he must take care of for a Family Studies project in a dumpster as he goes off to deal with the villains of the week. As his attempts to arrest them leaves Batman empty-handed, he returns to the dumpster just in time to see a garbage truck proceeding to empty its contents, prompting him to worriedly rush down, scoop up the eggbaby, and jet away.
    Waste Collector 1: "Batman... dumpster diving?"
    Waste Collector 2: (shrugs) "A fella's gotta eat."
  • The Spongebob Squarepants episode "Missing Identity" revolved around Spongebob trying to locate his missing identity (actually his name tag), eventually leading to him and Patrick looking for it in the dumpster behind the Krusty Krab. In the end, it's subverted because it turned out that Spongebob had his shirt on backwards the whole time along with his name tag.
  • Blunk from W.I.T.C.H. lives this trope. In fact he pretty much lives in the dumpster, scavenging for random items he can use for trade.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Real Life]]
  • 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.

[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 39
  • April 17, 2012
    TonyG
    On Two Broke Girls, Max and Caroline have to look through their trash after accidentally throwing away Earl's tax returns.
  • April 17, 2012
    chicagomel
    • Ozzie from The Fall Guy often does this for a living.
    • The Bad Future episode of The Adventures Of Jimmy Neutron showed that Sheen became a dumpster diver.
    • The Spongebob Squarepants episode "Missing Identity" revolved around Spongebob trying to locate his missing identity (actually his name tag), eventually leading to him and Patrick looking for it in the dumpster behind the Krusty Krab. In the end, it's subverted because it turned out that Spongebob had his shirt on backwards the whole time along with his name tag.
  • April 17, 2012
    randomsurfer
    There's Literal Junk Food, but that only covers the food aspect.
  • April 18, 2012
    BOFH
    Literature
    • In Someone Comes To Town Someone Leaves Town, this is how Kurt acquires hardware to cover the town of Kapuskasing in a public wi-fi network. Also, Kurt tells Adam a story about how he was questioned by a cop while dumpster diving, told the cop of the riches that you could find in dumpsters, and later found the cop dumpster diving for baseball cards to complete a collection.
  • April 18, 2012
    stickmeister0
    • In the beginning of an episode of Ed Eddn Eddy, Ed goes dumpster diving to find bottles that they can trade in for quarters.
  • April 18, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • Live Action TV: In Roc Roc 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.
  • April 18, 2012
    HawkofBattle
    Western Animation: Blunk from WITCH lives this trope. In fact he pretty much lives in the dumpster, scavenging for random items he can use for trade.
  • April 18, 2012
    SoundOfTruth94
    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.
  • July 2, 2012
    chicagomel
    Bumping again for more examples or hats.
  • July 2, 2012
    robinjohnson
    In the UK this is called "skipping" (a skip is a dumpster.)
  • July 2, 2012
    surgoshan
    • 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.
  • July 2, 2012
    Bisected8
    Tabletop game:
    • In Genius The Transgression, the "Dumpster Diver" merit improves a character's ability to build things on the spot, presumably by using this trope.

    Video Game
    • 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.
  • July 2, 2012
    Rognik
    Is this specifically for exploring a dumpster, or any time a character looks in the garbage, like in a trash can? The latter is almost a cliche in adventure games, if that's the case.
  • July 2, 2012
    swallowfeather
    You're gonna remove "I'm not sure how we missed this one," right?
  • July 2, 2012
    X2X
    Western Animation
    • In the Batman Beyond episode "The Eggbaby," Terry leaves behind a computerized eggbaby he must take care of for a Family Studies project in a dumpster as he goes off to deal with the villains of the week. As his attempts to arrest them leaves Batman empty-handed, he returns to the dumpster just in time to see a garbage truck proceeding to empty its contents, prompting him to worriedly rush down, scoop up the eggbaby, and jet away.
      Waste Collector 1: "Batman... dumpster diving?"
      Waste Collector 2: (shrugs) "A fella's gotta eat."
  • August 18, 2012
    DarkerShining
    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.
  • August 18, 2012
    surgoshan
    • An episode of How I Met Your Mother sends Marshall diving into a dumpster to find the plastic rings that once held together a six-pack as part of a mini-breakdown over the environment after the death of his father. Lily joins him there.
  • August 18, 2012
    KZN02
    Gaia Online: there's a "mini-game" called this where users can donate and obtain unwanted items to the dumpster.
  • December 15, 2012
    chicagomel
    • 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.
  • December 15, 2012
    lu127
    I'll adopt this to see if it works out.
  • December 15, 2012
    chicagomel
    Live Action TV
    • 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.
  • December 16, 2012
    TwoGunAngel
    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.
  • December 16, 2012
    Tallens
    ^^^SO, does that means you'll be adding new examples or should we be doing that ourselves?
  • December 17, 2012
    chicagomel
    Mmm it is mentioned in webcomics... Web Comic:
    • Megatokyo: Largo does this to find computer components.
  • December 17, 2012
    chicagomel
    Video Game Example:
    • Team Fortress 2: The premise of the "Dumpster Diver" weapons set (which includes the "Beggar's Bazooka") for the Soldier was that he built them all himself from parts he found in the dumpster after becoming homeless.

    Live Action TV example:
    • 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.

    Music Video Example
    • 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.

  • December 20, 2012
    chicagomel
    In the My Sims: Agents videogame you need to do this to find clues for cases.
  • December 21, 2012
    chicagomel
    I'm still here but if you want to finish it, I won't stop you. otherwise, I will.
  • December 25, 2012
    lu127
    It would really help if we both worked on it, actually. I decided to pick this up because the discussion on Literal Junk Food is leaning towards replacing that page (which is doing very poorly) with this YKTTW, which looks much better. I'm quite busy with clearing out that forum, so I'd be happy if I wasn't the only one working on the examples.
  • December 28, 2012
    TooBah
    • Done in the Moonlighting episode "Atlas Belched", where David has to go dumpster-diving to find a lost rolodex for a client.
  • December 28, 2012
    chicagomel
    Ok. I'll add the new examples this evening.
  • December 28, 2012
    Tallens
    Why is there a motion to discard up there?
  • December 28, 2012
    chicagomel
    I have no idea, but I'm curious too.

    I hope I didn't miss any examples.
  • December 29, 2012
    lu127
    Removed the discard tag. If anyone thinks it should be discarded, they should provide arguments.
  • December 29, 2012
    palumatzu
    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.
  • December 29, 2012
    Tallens
    • 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.
  • December 30, 2012
    DamianYerrick
    Real Life

  • December 30, 2012
    chicagomel
    It's got five hats, do we think it's okay to launch? Anyone see any formatting glitches I missed?
  • December 30, 2012
    Sheora
    It looks like it's good to go. I would just change your laconic to say "Retrieving something from the trash" since it goes beyond dumpsters.
  • December 30, 2012
    chicagomel
    • 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.

    (I think journalists may also be able to do that in The Sims 3, but I can't quite remember.)
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=2fhwpm8efvomrqzfudke47nk&trope=DumpsterDive