I get the thrill of dumpster diving, I really do. I got my fair share of end-of-semester castoffs during my college years.
But most of the good stuff? I got it from next to the dumpster. You know, the stuff someone felt bad for throwing out. They left that lonely lamp or end table where a nice person might find it, and that person was frequently me.
Little did I know that dumpster diving was a big moneymaker, and maybe I should have been taking a peek inside those big dumpsters before loading the trunk of my car.
Some people dive for electronics or items that have a high resale value. Some people dive for coupons, because their single copy of the newspaper doesn’t contain enough savings. The truly brave dive for food, either to reduce food waste in their personal lives or to scrounge up good eats for the homeless.
The new hot dumpster-diving goal? Makeup.
Why It’s Worth Dumpster-Diving for Makeup
Reselling beauty products is a huge business. Reselling beauty products you found in the trash? Maybe just as big.
Racked’s Beca Grimm spoke with three dumpster divers about the rising popularity of picking through trash for resellable beauty products, from foundation to mascara and beyond. Online prices for beauty-dive finds can be really good: usually 50 or 60% off the retail price.
Plucking discarded beauty products to sell on eBay and at local flea markets is far from new, but dumpster diving for beauty products has reached peak popularity due to Facebook. Divers who work as a side hustle post photos of their hauls on Facebook marketplace pages and get paid by enthusiastic bargain hunters within minutes.
Why Facebook? Think of it as a yard sale on the Internet. You’re more likely to tolerate a slightly damaged or worn product if you’re getting it at a great price from the guy who lives down the block. When you shop on eBay, you’re likely looking for a sparkling, new product.
Facebook marketplace group members will take a chance on a product that’s obviously been used, Grimm explained. It’s a whole separate market to help dumpster divers unload their imperfect inventory while the brand-new items go to eBay or another auction site.
The legalese around dumpster diving is pretty iffy; rules about picking through a company’s trash may vary state-to-state. Full-time diver James Jugan explained to Racked that to him, the legal risk is worth the payoff, since the worst offense he can be charged for in his area is trespassing.
Isn’t Used Makeup Gross?
You might get creeped out by sharing a makeup brush with someone, but lots of people are willing to risk the cooties. Jugan told Grimm that he spends much of his time cleaning his dumpster hauls before they’re ready for sale. Another diver sprays 99% alcohol on the eyeshadows and other products she finds, because it disinfects without gunking up any powders.
Many dumpster finds, however, are new products that stores simply can’t sell, like items that have been returned by customers.
Head over to Racked for the whole article, which also talks about what happens when dumpster divers get caught.
Your Turn: Would you buy partially used beauty products that came from a dumpster? Would you be willing to start diving yourself for extra cash?
Lisa Rowan is a writer, editor, and podcaster living in Washington, D.C.