By Liana Jacob
MEET THE woman who QUIT her high paid full-time job to DUMPSTER DIVE and now earns over £14K A YEAR and saves over £400 a month on everyday items – admitting that she even BRUSHES HER TEETH with TOOTHPASTE from BINS.
Dumpster diver and reseller, Kelly Sparks (27) from Texas, USA, and her husband spent the first five months of their marriage living out of a van while travelling around the country.
In 2012, they heard about dumpster diving through mutual friends which spiked their interest and they decided to try it once and were shocked by the amount of food thrown away.
For the following nine months, they never bought any of their groceries and instead collected them from bins and it opened their eyes to the lifestyle. They fell in love with it instantly.
Since then, they have been wearing clothes, cooking food, using toiletry products and even brush their teeth from toothpaste they find in the bins, saving around £409 ($500) a month on items they use.
Kelly became so passionate about this lifestyle that in June 2019 she quit her full-time job as head of social media to dumpster dive full time. Previously she was making over £3,200 ($4,000) a month. She now re-sells the objects online they find from bins and has roughly earned £820 to £1,230 ($1,000 to $1,500) a month.
Kelly has been sharing her journey on social media to raise awareness of the importance of donating unwanted food, clothes and items instead of throwing them away.
“We heard about dumpster diving through some friends at my husband’s university in Los Angeles. We decided to try it one night and were blown away by the amount of food thrown away at local organic grocery stores,” Kelly said.
“We didn’t buy groceries for the entire nine months I lived out there – it really opened my eyes to the lifestyle and my love for it has only grown since. We save roughly $500 a month on food/drinks/wine, clothes, appliances, toiletries, cleaning supplies, etc.
“I use the items I find in dumpsters every day. The majority of my clothing, all of the jewellery I wear, my shampoo and conditions, razors, face wash, lotions, and even toothpaste comes from the trash.
“The majority of the toiletry items I use were found still in the original boxes and unopened. Our dishwasher soaps and laundry detergents all come from the dumpsters.
“I’ve found some home decor like a taxidermy alligator head and candles, large baskets for blankets and smaller ones for organising, vases, and even house plants. All of the storage bins and shelves I use to store my finds are from the dumpsters.
“It hasn’t really affected my personal life at all aside from talking about it more with friends. It has affected our spending by allowing us to save money on everyday items.
“It has also made me much more conscious of what I throw away and what I choose to purchase. On average I make between $1,000 to $1,500 a month from selling the items I collect from the dumpsters.
“The majority of our food was from the dumpsters when we lived in California; it was much easier to source groceries there because the weather was cooler, and food would not spoil if left outside.
“Now that we live in Texas, especially in the summers, food spoils very quickly when outside so we probably only get twenty-five to thirty per cent of our groceries from the trash now.
“We primarily collect canned goods, chips or snacks, breads, pasta, and beverages since those don’t spoil easily. On average I collect three-hundred items a week from the dumpsters.
“I typically keep ten to fifteen items a week for myself, collect one-hundred to one-hundred and fifty a week for reselling, and donate roughly two-hundred articles of clothing every week.”
She has since quit her job to dumpster dive full time and wants to encourage people not to throw away useful items, but rather donate them to charities.
Even though Kelly mostly receives positive responses about her lifestyle, there are a few people who think her lifestyle is ‘gross’ and unsanitary.
“It wasn’t until I quit my full-time social media job in June of this year that I started to really get into diving as a career and way to bring awareness to America’s waste problem. I wanted to share my dumpster diving adventures on social media because it is a huge part of my life,” she said.
“It started with just wanting to keep my friends and family up to date on my life but has recently turned into something that I use in order to try and encourage others to donate their unwanted items instead of throwing them away.
“The majority of comments I receive are positive and encouraging for me to keep diving. People seem to be very interested in what I am doing because it is on the fringe.
“They’re curious about my way of life and want to know more. However, I have been told a couple times that what I am doing is gross and unsanitary – but I believe that comes from a lack of understanding on the subject.
“When I say ‘I eat food that I find in dumpsters’, people tend to think of half eaten sandwiches or left overs from restaurants. What I hope to convey to them is that I am talking about sealed and unopened items from groceries stores.
“A lot of stores will throw out items if the boxes are damaged in any way – so this could mean perfectly good canned goods, protein bars, pasta noodles, breads, etc. are thrown away simply because the packages were bent in transit.
“I hope to inspire others to be more conscious about what they throw away; there are so many people who could benefit from these items, so I want to encourage people to donate or sell their unwanted items instead of tossing them out.
“I also want to show people through my vlogs that dumpster diving is a fun way to be active, get outside, and rescue things from the landfill – every day is like a treasure hunt.
“I understand that dumpster diving is not for everyone, but being aware that when you throw something away, it doesn’t simply disappear, is something that everyone can incorporate into their daily lives.”