Posted on February 9, 2010

Free Coupons at Recycling Centers!

Recycling Centers: How I Get So Many Coupons For Free by Beeb Ashcroft

One of the questions I get asked a lot is, “Where do you get all of these coupons from?” When people see me buying 24 boxes of pasta, it’s natural for them to wonder how I’m doing it. After all, it wouldn’t be very cost effective to buy 24 newspapers every week. There are lots of good ways to get extra coupons – trading coupons with other people, ordering from a clipping service – but the one that’s worked the best for me is visiting my local recycling center. This method, lovingly referred to as “Dumpster Diving”, involves scouring the recycling center’s newspaper bin for inserts. This may sound gross, scary, or just plain bizarre, so I’d like to explain a little more about it.

Yes, that’s me in front of the newspaper bin! I was first introduced to the concept of dumpster diving for coupons when I read this helpful thread on Hot Coupon World. They talked about how you could get loads of extra newspaper inserts by looking through the recycling bin. “That’s cool,” I thought, “But I’d never sift through the trash for coupons.”

A few months went by, and I kept thinking about how I could stockpile so much more, if only I had more copies of the paper. I did a lot of trading for coupons that I needed, but that can be time intensive and requires an investment in postage. All of a sudden, digging through the recycling bin didn’t seem like such a bad idea. My quest to save money won out, and I put my snobbery aside and decided to try it. Much to my surprise, the recycling center was clean, and had the newspaper all in one bin, separate from anything else. In fact, there’s even a little “Freecyle” area, where people leave things that they don’t need for others to use – I found a cool, working camera there once.

The newspaper bin was a coupon lovers dream: huge piles of newspaper, as far as the eye can see. It was a gold mine of inserts, and my box quickly filled up with coupons. And since it was just newspaper, there was no icky stuff lurking in the bin. I’m pretty uptight about cleanliness, so if I’m willing to do it, you know it’s not that bad. And the savings were immediate: having so many copies of the inserts allowed me to slash my budget even further. So how does a dumpster diving trip work?

As you can see, I bring two plastic bins with me. I pull out a mound of newspaper, and sift it into two piles: the inserts go in one box, the unwanted newspaper goes in another. After I sort through one pile, I dump out the unneeded paper and get another stack. In just 15 or 20 minutes, I can have a mound of great inserts. Sometimes I stay longer and fill the box to the brim. How often I go depends on my schedule – sometimes I’ll go once or twice in a week, sometimes weeks will pass without a trip. There’s usually several weeks worth of newspapers in the bin at any given time, so I can catch up with the inserts if I haven’t been there for a while. I’ve even found an insert from December of 2007 in there!! I guess some people hang onto their recycling for a long time.

I actually haven’t bought the newspaper for about a month or two, because I’ve been getting so many papers at the recycling center that there was no point. However, I’m going to start buying one copy per week again, because now that the weather is getting nastier, it’s not practical to go as often.

See how many inserts I got for 20 minutes worth of easy work? These trips save me so much money – if you got paid a hundred dollars for an hour’s worth of work, would it be worth it to you? It certainly is to me. So how do you get started? Here’s a few tips and tricks:

Check your local rules and regulations: Every area has different policies regarding their recycling bins, so make sure that it’s OK to dumpster dive in your town.
Bring supplies: You’re going to want at least two big boxes to sort newspaper with. Or, if you prefer, you can load up a few boxes with paper, sort it at home, and then drop off the unused paper later. And don’t forget the hand sanitizer!
Leave the area better than you found it: I’m sure this goes without saying, but don’t make a mess. Be neat and clean about your dumpster diving, and don’t leave newspaper strewn about. If I find a cereal box or bottle thrown in the newspaper bin by mistake, I help out by putting it in the right bin.
Have fun! You’ve gotta laugh at the absurdity of digging through the recycling for coupons, but trust me – you’ll be saving too much money to care!

Beeb Ashcroft blogs over at Super Coupon Girl! Check out her blog for lots of great frugal ideas!

  • michele

    It’s couponing 101 to me……first step…..hit the recycle bins! If you are going to invest a good deal of time strategizing a perfect shopping trip, why not multiply your shoppong list times 20…..and use your huge excessive load (from 200 copies of each insert’s stash each provides lol) and take that stockpile and attend local homeless events, donation centers, etc??!!! You have got the right idea so thanks for making me feel a little less crazy lol! My husband and I can provide razors, toothpaste, brushes, shave cream, flashlights and tarps(all free with any purchase thx to harbor freight) and tons of food to at least 50 to 100 homesless individuals simply from the extra inserts thrown away…..its simply a miracle and blessing that comes from scavenging these bins. So thanks for the tips and one thing……to all of you planning on joining in on her tactics…rule number one…carry a copy of your local laws and ordinances…there is always some unhappyfemale with a frown on her face that comes to dump her “money, aka coupons and newspaper, in the bin and magically the cops show up 15 min later. Know your laws because the police often do NOT and will try to accuse you of everything from theft to trespassing. It’s so sad and aggravating. Here you are digging through trash to help your family and others ….and some biddy has to feel the need to take out her life’s pent up aggravation by calling the cops on some coupon diggers. Worst part is we’ll talk to them and they know we are taking coupons only…not their flippin ssn#s (which they somehow think we can pull from that one copy of Woman’s Day they forgot to rip and ruin pulling their address from the cover page just terrified all the coupon diggers will turn thieves overnigt and become residential address stealers..argghh..idiots….)so sorry to rant…..just fed up….we live in a somewhat rural area and are an interracial married couple and it never fails….i can dig for 3 hours with no prob….take my husband and cops are there within 30 min)but after all is said and done…wouldnt stop doin it for the world….nothing but good comes from it…you just need a thick skin to deal withthe goodies dumping their samsclub overpriced 3 ft by 3 ft cereal boxes and staring at you like a leper. As long as that type thing doesn’t bother ya…grab yourself two boxes and haul tail down to th recycle and good luck!

    • LOL This comment made me smile. Good for you for using coupons to help others in need – love it. Thank you for sharing!!

  • Mia

    How do I find a local recycle center

    • Great question – I would start with your township or county – give them a call and they might be able to point you in the right direction.

  • Shannon you can find recycling centers there.

  • tara

    @michele I read that before I go to ask stores and gas stations for the inserts from day old newspapers. They ONLY need the news portion of the paper not the coupons to get credit from the courrier picking up the papers. Once they realize that they usually save them. Thanks so much for the “pep talk” By the way is there a site anywhere that can tell you what your local laws are for going to recycling centers?

  • Christine

    Hi I have a question-I have looked at a majority of the recycling centers in the area, but none seem to have a outside section for newspapers-I am also in a wide spread area so I am at a loss as to where to go to look? Any one in Lancaster County, PA have an idea?

    Abundant thank yous!

  • Bryia

    Hello there.! Thanks for the tips.! I’m 16 years old and have started couponing. :) awesome stuff.. Thanks again :)

  • Chelsea

    How or where are the recycling centers? I cant seem to find any…where would i loook for them in the vancouver area?

  • Tad Bunge

    I’ll be honest, I’m kinda confused. But nice blog.

  • Bradley Williams

    Looking for recycle bins in redford area for coupons

  • esmy

    hello i will like to know if anyone knows about a place dfw, arlington, duncanville, irving that i go and dumpster dive or anyone will ago with me

  • Ronda

    how do you find out where the recycle bins are….I want to become an extreme couponer but i’m nervous about it…that I will mess up…did you ever feel that way…

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