Yes, looking through trash is dirty work, but it can also be very rewarding. We talk to Xin Yi, 25, to find out how she got into the practice, and the good that has come from it. I first started dumpster diving in April 2017. My first ‘hunt’ was with a group led by Daniel, and I now do it about once or twice a week. I admit it’s dirty work because there’s actual rubbish thrown, and I’ve encountered rats, cockroaches, insects and even the occasional diaper. If I see a rat or cockroach scuttling around, I back off immediately. If I can smell the bin while walking towards it, I back off too. The extent of the filth actually depends on the area you’re diving in. For example, if you’re doing a veggie hunt in busy urban areas, you’ll sometimes come across decomposing veggies and slimy stuff. But in residential areas, the dumpsters are pretty clean thanks to the town council cleaners.
Most of the time, the clothes I find are in pretty good condition. They’re perfectly wearable after a good wash and steam. I’ve found pretty new shoes from brands like Converse, Charles & Keith, and Gucci. I’ve also found a Pandora bracelet and accessories from Helen and Lovisa with the tags still on. I once even picked up a scratch-free HTC Butterfly phone. If I find stuff I don’t want, I give them away on the Freegood app.
Yes, people gawk, and I used to feel very selfconscious. But now I just ignore them and do my own thing. I feel more comfortable in trios, but I usually dive alone or with just one friend.
A lot of people claim to do it to save the earth, which is great, but I do it because I want to reduce my own waste and save money. There’s nothing bad or uncool about wanting to reduce waste and provide a new lease of life for items that are still usable or consumable. You know what’s uncool? Complaining about being broke because you ‘need’ Starbucks coffee every morning.
I’m not a purist – I still spend money every now and then. However, I’ve definitely cut down on my expenses. I have almost everything I need and don’t need to spend much more, which is great because my boyfriend and I are saving up for a place. Unfortunately, I can’t dumpster dive for an HDB flat… but we shall see.”