This is 38-year-old Daniel Tay, a mild-mannered financial planner who dumpster dives for fun.
For him, “normal” doesn’t quite apply.
“Dumpster diving is a subset of a certain kind of lifestyle that advocates better sharing of resources,” he explains, having first been introduced to the practice by a fellow hobbyist at an event about balancing one’s passions and pay cheque.
“The first few times I did it, I was totally inefficient. I would end up walking to the same block three times because I didn’t know the area,” he says.
As his expertise grew, so did the quantity and quality of his finds. It was out of sheer convenience that he resolved to dumpster dive in the vicinity of his HDB flat.
Now, he does it on the regular, about two to three days a week (Saturday, Sunday, and either Wednesday or Thursday), and usually in the evenings at 8pm.
Armed with a large shopping bag, a plastic trolley, a headlamp, and a pair of scissors, he follows a carefully planned route, spending about an hour collecting about 30kg worth of items. This is followed by another hour cleaning them at home.
“Initially, I didn’t really want to get my hands dirty. When I first started out, I would wash my hands all the way with Dettol soap and disinfect everything with alcohol wipes,” Daniel confesses, laughing.
These days, the intrepid picker goes in without gloves, and washes off without soap. He exercises caution so he doesn’t cut himself or get pink eyes. As for the stench, he says, “On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being very fragrant, it’s about a 4. It leans more towards unpleasant, but it’s not revolting.”
Despite being free from germaphobic tendencies, he isn’t immune to all fear.
During a picking session, I watch as he lets out a small shriek, jerking his hand back when he encounters something moving amidst cardboard boards that he’s sifting through.
“I don’t like insects,” shuddering as he tells me. “When I see ants, I don’t even want to look at them. I’ll skip the dumpster.”
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