College life is not cheap. Between tuition, parking permits, outrageously overpriced textbooks and booze money, students are often left scrambling to make ends meet between paychecks or allowances. Buying brand-new school supplies every semester only adds to the financial stress. What many students are not aware of is the fact that many of these supplies are readily available to them—for free. Students should consider dumpster diving as a way to find free school and housing materials.
A city wide purge takes place in San Marcos at the beginning of each semester. Students often adjust living situations at these times, moving out of old dorms and apartments in favor of fresh accommodations. This means the lazy and the rich sometimes toss out gently used or even brand new items. These perfectly functional objects sit abandoned outside the dumpster, waiting for a loving pair of hands to grab and haul them to a home that will appreciate their value.
The useful things I have found dumpster diving include a brand new hair dryer, several storage drawers, heaps of unused or barely-used notebooks, Ethernet cables and dry-erase calendars. All of these now have a cozy place in my own home, where they are put to good use.
I am not the only one who participates in dumpster diving. I have seen many other students rummaging in the “dumpster depot,” snatching up everything from desks to notepads. It may seem gross, but there is not much a little disinfectant cannot fix.
Americans generated about 250 million tons of trash in 2011, of which only 34.7 percent was recycled, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Nomadic college culture is wasteful by nature, and students contribute more than their fair share to the great American trash heap. It is impossible to completely curb every wasteful person’s bad trash habits. However, those who are conscientious of such things can easily pick up some of the slack.
Searching through the garbage to salvage tossed items is a good way to start recyling. For creative types, there are many interesting artifacts and supplies that can be found in trash to be repurposed for art pieces. Items that are worse-for-wear may be up-cycled to something more useful, and sometimes even sold for a profit. Any of these options are preferable to tossing out objects that are far from their true expiration dates.
The dumpster can be a good place for students to volunteer their time and reduce trash output while earning relatively new supplies and fresh décor. Bobcats can easily gather up functional furniture or supplies from dumpsters and curbsides and redistribute them to those in need. Students who are partial to brand-new school supplies but lack the funds can recover dumpster goodies and sell them to gather cash for that One Direction backpack they want so badly.
One man’s trash may not always be another’s treasure, but much of it is functional and free. Bobcats should swallow their pride and dive right in—the pickings are far from slim.