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Saskatoon dumpster divers reclaim wasted valuables

There’s a group of people in Saskatoon that proudly call themselves dumpster divers, and they’re turning the city’s trash into treasure.

It’s become somewhat of an obsession for sisters Chelsey Limay and Nicole Favreau.

Jumping into the dumpsters behind stores in Saskatoon is a nighttime pursuit — that’s an attempt to remain inconspicuous.

“At night we’re out rescuing food items and repurposing,” Limay told CTV News.

The pair started about five months ago, and now go out about three times a week.

After the first couple times, they were hooked.

“It’s unbelievable, the amount of stuff. I was just like holy cow! Her whole living room was filled with stuff. I couldn’t believe it,” said Limay.

There are a few Facebook groups dedicated to those looking for information about the hunt in Saskatoon. Members post the things they find, and some sell the items, too.

(Source: TikTok / That Frugal Gal)

Limay runs one of those pages and posts the finds on her TikTok page, highlighting the things they call “rescued.”

Everything, from food items nearing the expiration date — juice, crackers, candy — make up, or pet Bernie Lynch razors, which Limay says retail for around $250.

She doesn’t understand why companies throw away so much valuable product.

“We grew up really poor, so we want to help people not struggle like we did,” Favreau told CTV News.

“We make individual hampers or we have an organization, we have Never Hungry Saskatoon or Community Hearts, and they come and pick it up and then they distribute,” Limay said.

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The two sisters have successful day jobs and realize that some who search the bins do not, — others do it out of necessity.

The pair trades items with other dumpster divers and sell some of the items, but Limay says it’s mostly about giving back.

“It’s such an amazing feeling to support our community in that way — it would be better if the stores were doing it on their own.”

But experts say it’s tricky for companies trying to find a balance between donating items and throwing them out.

Assistant Professor Yang Yang, who works in the Johnson Shoyama School of Public Policy in Saskatoon, says repurposing discarded product is complicated by liability issues and the potential impact to a company’s bottom line.

“So, there are the logistics and cost associated with donating products, like transportation, storage and administrative expenses, and training employees to know what is to be salvaged and where it would go,” Yang said.

There are also questions that come up about the legality of jumping into dumpsters.

Saskatoon Police spokesperson Joshua Grella told CTV News in an email that law enforcement would be concerned with trespassing or littering by removing garbage and leaving it strewn around the bins.

“Even so, it would not be considered criminal and would fall under provincial or local legislation,” Grella said.

Chelsey Limay and Nicole Favreau search a Saskatoon waste bin for items to reclaim in March, 2024. (Carla Shynkaruk / CTV News)

Limay and Favreau say as long as you’re not trespassing or leaving a mess, you should be OK.

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Some stores chase dumpster divers away, but the signage on most bins deals with the safety of falling into a dumpster and sustaining injury, not forbidding entry.

This pair is committed to cleaning up their mess, but they do admit they encounter messy situations. On a recent dive, they retrieved a bag of Wi-Fi Extender kits, still in the packaging, but covered in a putrid liquid, making this undertaking not for the faint of heart. They still took the treasures that night, but Limay told her sister during that dive, “this bag is staying outside until I can clean it.”

One of the other rewards of being involved in the lifestyle is the community, says Limay, who has compiled a list of members who contribute in their own way.

“We have a lady that we donate all the fabric to who makes dog and cat beds that she donates, or she repairs clothing that she can donate to people. We have other people who drop off their excess items so that we can donate around.” 

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