Would You Dumpster-Dive for Free Blush?

Dumpster-diving for beauty products is a growing U.S. trend. Are Canadians getting in on the action?

(Photo: iStock)

(Photo: iStock)

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder—and so are beauty products, apparently. According to a post on, dumpster-diving for pricey beauty products has become a trend among bargain-hunters in the U.S, and many of these aesthetically minded urban pirates are making bank off their pilfered treasure, selling beauty-booty online for a profit. Entrepreneurial types are reportedly sneaking into dumpsters behind big-box beauty retailers like Sephora and Ulta, emerging with a stash of pricey cosmetics that are then dusted off and sold at discount prices to thrifty product hounds through Facebook, for example, or at flea markets.

Many dumpster-divers are happy to post videos of their beauty hauls on YouTube, creating cheap commercials for their wares (body lotions, eye creams, blush, shampoo) and dumpster-diving how-tos. This gal unearthed a whack of covetable, still-in-their-boxes products, including a Tarte concealer and a Living Proof hair care kit.

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Tempted to give it a try? The legal risk of jumping into a commercial dumpster is negligible: It’s not a crime to take garbage and you can only be charged with trespassing if you ignore a warning to vacate the premises after being caught dumpster-diving. It’s hard to tell how popular the practice is in Canada—there’s a whack of Canadian pro-dumpster diving sites, but none are specific to beauty products. I didn’t come across any Canadian YouTube dive-haul videos, and Sephora Canada didn’t respond to my request to discuss the issue.

But Canada does have its fair share of dumpster-divers. In their 2012 documentary, Just Eat It, Vancouver-based filmmaker Jen Rustemeyer and her partner, Grant Baldwin, documented their self-imposed sabbatical from the grocery store and their journey to survive on discarded food items alone. Though she’s never made beauty products her focus and has never sold anything found in a dumpster, Rustemeyer doesn’t have a problem with the concept. “I personally don’t sell things I dumpster-dive, but technically, I don’t see why someone couldn’t. That product was thrown away because it was thought to be unsellable,” she says. If they can sell the unsellable then more power to them, she suggests.

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As a seasoned dumpster-diver, Rustemeyer says there are few obstacles to taking the plunge. “I have not heard of anyone being successfully charged for taking things out of a dumpster,” she says. “[Grant and I] ran into very few problems and we were careful to be quiet, clean and respectful if approached by security.” The biggest hurdle, she says, is finding unlocked bins. “But once we did, it was very easy to find stuff.”

Anyone squeamish about idea of dumpster diving—or buying products reclaimed from the trash—might be surprised to learn how well-preserved most items that get trashed can be, adds Rustemeyer, a fact borne out by the many dumpster haul videos. “The main misconception is that things get thrown out for a good reason and there is something wrong with them. That is not true. I assume the same goes for cosmetics: When they change the packaging of a shampoo, the old stuff goes on sale for a short time, and then into the bin.”

“It’s a shame.”

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