I've Been Dumpster Diving for Beauty Products, and You Should, Too

From Rimmel to La Mer, I've been finding sealed makeup and skin care in stores' garbage bags.
PJ Gach
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From Rimmel to La Mer, I've been finding sealed makeup and skin care in stores' garbage bags.

It started innocently enough: Walking down the street late one night, I spied a clearish garbage bag outside a CVS. As I reached it and looked down, I noticed, mixed with papers, receipts, and other crap, one packaged mascara. Intrigued, I slowly unknotted the bag and dove in.

My booty from that night consisted of a Rimmel mascara, a black quilted tote bag with patent-leather straps, two beanies (with tags on them), a sealed tube of Blistex, and Olay under-eye cream and moisturizer.

Want to talk about an adrenaline rush? I felt like I had scored big! I had a shopping bag full of decent, unused merch that I not only didn’t pay for, but that I also rescued the items from a landfill.

I wasn’t sure if lightening would strike twice, but a couple of nights later, I wandered past a Walgreen’s after 11 p.m., when I saw a dumpster backed up to the store. After what had happened a few nights ago, I knew I had to check it out. I attempted to root around in the dumpster, but I’m 5'4", and the lip of the dumpster hits at about my neck.

Torturously standing on my toes, I stuck my arms in the bags and felt around. Walgreen’s had a weird-ass mix of stuff. There were old, wilted salads, a ton of receipts (does anyone think to rip them up before they toss them in the garbage?), a still-wrapped tuna salad sandwich, and...stuff.

I took the tuna sandwich — hey, I was hungry — a gold lip gloss from Boots No.7, a brand-new umbrella, two boxes of Corn Pops — my fave (don’t judge) — JVC ear buds, and some eyeshadow.

Okay, yes, I do realize that I could have paid for these items, but they were being thrown out. They were perfectly good items, and I couldn’t abandon them; I had to adopt them and save them from the landfill.

Does this look like garbage to you? [Photo by Candice Sabatini]

Does this look like garbage to you? [Photo by Candice Sabatini]

I’m not a hoarder. I don’t believe in keeping my second-grade essays or a book that I read three years ago. However, I was completely gobsmacked by the quality and quantity of stuff being thrown out. Most of it was perfectly good, fresh, undamaged, and unused.

I found myself eagerly waiting for 11 p.m. to show up. That’s when the “goodies” were tossed out onto the street and I went to rescue them. It seemed that with every haul — Thermalite gloves, lipstick, shower gel — the price tags and brands kept getting better.

Then, two nights ago, I hit El Dorado. Here’s the scenario, I was wandering down a city street, late at night. I found myself on the back side of a national department store. I was in shitty mood as someone had just stolen my phone. I looked down and, sprinkled on the pavement like a path of gum drops leading to a witch’s house, I spied shiny, brand-new La Mer, MAC, Dior, and Clinique boxes. I looked at them, they twinkled back at me or was it just the light from the light post?

“Holy fucking shit!” I yelled out. I quickly scanned the street. No one heard me, thank gawd. I carefully laid my laptop on the ground and started checking out the boxes. They were all full. Holy crap, Department Store X is tossing BRAND NEW BEAUTY PRODUCTS out.

Looking around, I saw a crumpled up, small shopping bag. I grabbed it and started stuffing in all the Estée Lauder, NARS, and whatever else would fit in the bag. There was more stuff than bag, though, so I started jamming it into my laptop bag. 

The weight of all the beauty and skin-care products made me tilt to one side. I hobbled down the street. Leaning against a trash can is a really large shopping bag from Timberland. You know, huge. I empty everything into it. That bag is now half full.

When I got home and started going through everything, you would have thought it was Christmas the second time around. Every single thing I picked up was new, not touched or used. I guess the reason why Department Store X had so many revolving doors was because its shoppers buy and return so much stuff every day, the doors kept up the momentum.

I can’t stop dumpster diving for beauty products. It’s become a bad (maybe not?) habit. Maybe throwing out unused, perfectly good merchandise is indicative of the carelessness of American society, maybe it’s a company’s policy to throw out unused items, and maybe it’s a horrific waste, too. Whatever it is, I’m going to take advantage of it as long as I can. I’d much rather dig through a bag of crumpled tissue, paper bags, and detritus and “discover” a brand-new $90 cleanser rather than pay for it.