Prevalent in the 1980s due to lax security was the process of dumpster diving. A curious hacker or malicious cracker would search in the skips (called "dumpsters" in American English) of major corporations for thrown-out manuals, passwords, credit card numbers, et cetera.

When corporations became aware of the need for increased security (in the early 1990s), sensitive documents were shredded before being placed in dumpsters.

The term is also used for the retrieving of useful items (not necessarily computer-related) from dumpsters, trash cans, curbsides, or similar places where discarded items can be found. This is usually done in order to acquire the items at no cost. Dumpster diving is illegal in some parts of the United States, though in many places the relevant laws do not seem to be very vigorously enforced. Similarly in the UK, though diving is, in theory, theft, there is very little enforcement; many people hate to see useful things being discarded, and British television shows have even featured home renovations and decoration using dived materials. Changing Rooms is one such show, broadcast on BBC 1.


  • Art and Science of Dumpster Diving by John Hoffman; ISBN 1559500883
  • Travels with Lizbeth by Lars Eighner (contains a chapter on the topic)
  • Dumpster Diving: The Advanced Course by John Hoffman (brings dumpster diving into the computer era) Paladin Press 2002.
  • The Simple Life, Berkeley Press (contains a chapter by Hoffman on dumpster diving)

External links