With the precision of a highly disciplined gymnast — legs kicked out into the air and abdomen pressed onto metal — my sister and I launched ourselves head first into the seedy world of dumpster diving at the tender ages of 11 and 12. The pastime, born out of quiet kiddy desperation coupled with what seemed like an impossibly drawn-out, sweltering summer, literally saved us from certain death by boredom.
The moment our eyes fell upon a huge rectangular metal container bursting at the seams with stuff, the heavens opened up, kissing us with mountains of post-consumer pity. Naturally, we failed to grasp why the 30-yard dumpster we were buzzing around contained the disposed contents of someone’s entire household — we merely thought that some otherworldly force miraculously answered our summertime vacation entertainment prayers. I recall a well-dressed man in a suit looking up from his clipboard, taking in our sticky rugrat appearances, and with a well-intentioned twinkle in his eye, giving us the green light to retrieve as many garbage goodies as we desired. Life was grand, indeed.
Despite its seeming practicality, catapulting oneself into an open dumpster still gets a bad rep, conjuring up visions of not-exactly-sure-footed individuals slurping down one too many brown-paper-wrapped Colt 45s, but the nocturnal activity continues to gain more of a foothold as the green movement pushes forward into mainstream consciousness.
The idea of rescuing perfectly usable household and food items is now perceived as being frugal, anti-consumerist, planet friendly and in some cultural circles, even kind of cool. In fact, we’ve begun to literally think outside of the metal box by repurposing the actual dumpsters themselves. Transforming old dumpsters into recreational play things offers concrete jungle dwellers a low-cost DIY alternative to traditional summer entertainment distractions that facilitates creativity with very minimal out-of-pocket expense. You wouldn’t know it from a quick once-over, but there’s actually nothing trashy at all about the many ways in which typical dumpsters can be repurposed.
The movable dumpster swimming pool concept, which doesn’t seem terribly appealing considering the type of dregs that we typically fling inside, had auspicious beginnings in Georgia, where it is believed that the first DIY version was created.
Once the principals of Macro-Sea caught wind of the ingenious trash-to-treasure application, the company emulated the guerrilla project in its own in New York City last summer by utilizing donated dumpsters (courtesy of a construction company) that were thoroughly sanitized, filled with a bottom layer of sand followed by a heavy-grade plastic liner and fitted with mini-filtration systems. The result of their efforts? Multiple pop-up pools offering an oasis in the middle of typically industrial swaths of Brooklyn, which fast became the buzz of the boho-indie circuit, attracting the attention of do-it-yourself-designers and their artsy brethren across the blogosphere and beyond. With urban renewal on their mind, Macro-Sea has used this bold, real-life and relatively affordable DIY demonstration as a springboard for its ultimate plan to revamp neglected strip malls into community fun zones (which is currently in the works).
There have been various homegrown copycats cropping up all over the country that go well beyond the water park concept by indulging those who prefer to keep their feet firmly planted on the ground. From repurposed dumpster ping pong tables and skateboard parks to portable libraries, meeting places and insta-gardens, getting down and dirty with garbage receptacles is clearly only limited by one’s imagination and hands-on skills.
When you’re landlocked and faced with endless miles of commercial real estate and asphalt rather than actual room to spread your wings, carving out your own personal chill space ends up becoming an exercise in mental necessity. So, perhaps this summer you’ll take a chill pill by diving into a dumpster rather than the ocean!