Making a Dumpster Dive is going into the dumpster note intentionally to get something. Dumpster dives tend to show up three ways in fiction. The first is the homeless person going in to get leftover food, usable 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 ends a fall in a Dumpster or other trash.
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- 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.
- In Aftermath: A Story of Blended Cliches, Ranma being caught when reduced to this causes a Despair Event Horizon, Something Sailor Pluto had been working Ranma towards to rebuild her.
- 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.
- I Dream of Jeannie: In the first episode, "The Lady in the Bottle", Major Nelson rifles through the back of a garbage truck in an attempt to recover Jeannie and her bottle. With Major Healey, Dr. Bellows and General Stone looking on . . .
- Monk: In "Mr. Monk and the Psychic", Monk makes Sharona do a dumpster dive in order to find a vital clue. Later, in "Mr. Monk and the Captain's Wife", Monk would himself chase after a garbage truck in search of key evidence.
- 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 and 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.
- A Seeing Things episode has Louis and his Crown Attorney friend searching a dumpster for a syringe, which proves embarrassing considering they attract the attention of a Salvation Army officer who is convinced they are homeless.
- In an episode of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the gang visits a dump to find things they can use. Charlie finds a scimitar he calls an "Ali Baba sword."
- Chuck: The season 1 finale, "Chuck vs. the Marlin", ends with Chuck and Sarah combing through a dumpster looking for Devon's grandmother's ring, so he can propose to Ellie.
- Leverage: "The Juror #6 Job" has Hardison and Eliot combing through trash to find out which juror a Corrupt Corporate Executive has bought off.
- Dark Angel: One episode has Max trying to find a valuable painting that had been mistakenly sent to the wrong place and been thrown away. Since Logan had invited her to a family wedding, she was wearing a nice, and expensive, dress that she didn't want to ruin, so she took it off and rummaged through the trash naked.
- 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.
- GURPS Action 2: Exploits mentions dumpster diving as a way to get documents and passwords from the enemy.
- Warhammer 40K: The massive hive cities host billions of humans, with every layer going through the refuse of the layer above. The deeper you go, the more dangerous the denizens, who have to fight off cults, mutants, and spiders the size of tanks.
- The play "Trash" is built around this trope, as two estranged sisters spend the entire play digging through a municipal dump to find a letter from their dead mother that was thrown out. At the end, they find the letter but leave it in the trash unopened.
- In 16 Ways to Kill a Vampire at Mcdonalds, Lucy can poke around in the alley's dumpster as long as the vampire is not on her tail. There are two useful items to find, though one needs duct tape.
- In Borderlands, dumpsters are one of the containers which can be opened (they usually contain ammo and money, but sometimes contain 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.
- 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 MySims: Agents, 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.
- 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.
- In Chulip, your main character can look garbage cans and dumpsters for loot that can include a sweet potato to eat. But be careful, sometimes you can end up with poopy on your hand which does damage to your fragile heart. At least you can sell the poopy afterwards...
- Corvo can do this in Dishonored. Dumpsters are useful because you can hide inside or hide the bodies of the people you kill or knock out, find food to replenish your health bar, or find bottles you can use to distract the guards.
- In Stardew Valley, interacting with trash cans has a small chance of yielding a random item. Usually this is trash, but Pelican Town's citizens have been known to throw away valuables such as diamonds. Don't expect this to endear you to any NPCs who may be watching.
- Megatokyo: Largo does this to find computer components.
- 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.
- Dr. Zoidberg from Futurama often rummages the dumpster for food, and in some episodes he appears to actually live in it.
- In The Legend of Korra after the Equalists take over Republic City Team Avatar is taken in by a group of homeless people, who offer them shelter and food "taken from the finest dumpsters in the city." Asami has an I Ate WHAT?! moment right after.
- In Bee and Puppycat, this is how Bee really got Puppycat's presents for him when she claims the pet store she used to work at is going out of business.
- Goof Troop:
- In "Big City Blues", the homeless man Buster wants to get some food for Max and PJ at a place that's very affordable, that turns out to be a dumpster. The two boys are turned off by the prospect of eating garbage, and it helps compel them to donate some of their own food to the homeless.
- In "Puppy Love", PJ dives through the dumpster to find his crush, Rose Deckenbloom's poem, which she threw away because everyone laughed at her when she read it; PJ thought it was beautiful.
- Freeganism is an offshoot of veganism that supports, among other things, dumpster diving to avoid wasting food in order to live more sustainably.
- A longtime practice of hackers to get electronics, and by criminal hackers (Crackers) to obtain corporate information. Now, far less common due to shredding documents and destruction of hard drives before disposal.
- 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.