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Mom And Daughter Dumpster Diving Duo Explain How They've Salvaged Over $35k Worth Of Treasures

Ana and Tamara dumpster diving (PA Real Life/Collect)

A mother and daughter have become modern day Robin Hoods by salvaging more than $35,000 worth of discarded goods a year from store dumpsters and sharing 80 percent of it between charity and their friends.

Tamara Benavente and her mom Ana Ortiz of Miami, Florida, now call themselves “dumpster chicks." They became hooked on the unusual hobby in September 2016, trying it for the first time after Tamara clicked on a YouTube ad at the end of a make up tutorial.

“It was dusk and we headed to a department store around the corner from where I lived," she said.

“We pulled over by the dumpsters and sat there for what felt like ages. It's a lot scarier than you think. It felt like we were doing something wrong. After 10 minutes or so, we finally got out of the car. Mum stood next to the dumpster with a bin bag, while I started rummaging around."

“It was my first dumpster dive – the name given to people who look for discarded items in store dumpsters – so I didn't get properly in there. But I still found some great things including a lovely pair of cast iron lanterns and a beautiful new coat."

Ana and Tamara showcasing their haul (PA Real Life/Collect)

“The high from our first adventure was two-fold. There was the buzz of getting stuff for free, along with the adrenaline of doing something that felt quite dangerous," she continued.

Initially, Ana only went along for the ride knowing that her daughter was determined to give dumpster diving a go.

Now, four years later, not only are they accomplished divers, but they record their adventures for their own YouTube channel and they donate most of what they find to charity.

“It's very funny looking back at our first dive, Mum was so insistent that it would only ever be the once," Tamara said.

“She turned to me and said, 'I'm only doing this to get it out of your system!' But after our first mission, she was bitten by the bug. As soon as I dropped her back home she said, 'Let's do that again.'"

Party City (PA Real Life/Collect)

“Four years later and here we are, diving every week, salvaging goods worth around $36,000 a year and with our own YouTube channel," she continued.

Sharing weekly hauls, which can include high end items like $500 Dyson hair straighteners and $650 YSL shoes, Tamara only discovered dumpster diving as she was “obsessed" with watching make up and beauty tutorials in her spare time.

“I'd never even heard of it before, but as soon as I saw all the free make up this woman had retrieved from the bin, I knew I had to give it a try," she said.

“I love nice things, but I always put necessity first, which means luxury items aren't always in my budget. I was amazed that it was possible to get so many luxury items for free and my diving career really snowballed from there."

Soon tuning into dumpster videos, Ana started sending links to her mom, who became equally obsessed.

“She was so intrigued by it, but also quite hesitant about giving it a go herself – as she thought it could be quite dangerous," she said.

But, after their first attempt back in September 2016 they soon honed their expertise with Tamara using Google maps to locate potential treasure troves of goods discarded by stores ranging from chemists to homeware and beauty shops.

For the next 12 months, the duo trawled dumpsters once a week devoting four hours to searching three to six bins in a single night.

Boxes of Banes and Noble books (PA Real Life/Collect)

“We were very hesitant to tell any other friends or family at the beginning," she said. “It was our little secret. We were worried that people would judge us. But we weren't ashamed enough to stop. Each week we were finding more and more stuff."

Ana and Tamara dumpster diving (PA Real Life/Collect)

“Growing up, mum and I were so close, but when I left home and started working, like most children, I drifted away," she continued.

“But dumpster diving really brought us together. It was our chance to spend hours of quality time together every week."

With some of their most expensive finds including $400 worth of Kilner jars, and four crates of Barnes and Noble books, which they estimated to be worth $1,000.

Continually salvaging goods worth around $3,000 each month, they decided to start donating the majority to charity and friends, keeping just 20 per cent themselves.

“If it's something we really like we'll keep it," Tamara said. “Mum loves crafting and she'll keep nice materials – like chalk or fancy paper."

“I like to keep the seasonal decorations and party hampers, but you can't keep everything – and we wouldn't want to."

Party City (PA Real Life/Collect)

“At first the thrill really came from getting things for free – who doesn't love a freebie? But as time as passed it's become much more than that," she said.

“It's about stopping all these quality items from being tossed away. It almost feels like our duty to stop perfectly usable goods from going into the crusher or to land fill."

“There are so many people in the world – and even in our country – who can't afford the necessities in life, let alone the nicer things and, knowing that we're saving items that will bring people joy and donating them to charity, is really our motive now."

Ana and Tamara showcasing their haul (PA Real Life/Collect)

As they became more accomplished, in the summer of 2018 the pair also started sharing videos of their hauls on YouTube.

“It felt like a great way to shine a light on all the waste that is being produced by retailers," Tamara said.

“After all, it was YouTube that got us into diving, so we wanted to encourage more people."

“We go through our hauls every week and upload it to our YouTube channel," she said.

“But, before long, followers were asking to see us on the job, so we started including footage of the whole process."

But because of the pandemic, they have added some extra precautions.

“We have had to adapt because of the pandemic, but really it's something we should have been doing anyway," said Tamara.

“We wear masks now – as well as using gloves and hand sanitizer – and we leave the loot in the garage for 72 hours before going through it, to make sure any nasties have died."

Ana and Tamara dumpster diving (PA Real Life/Collect)

Despite enjoying their hobby, Tamara's eyes have been opened by their finds and she hopes that dumpster diving will not be possible.

“It's got to the point where we don't need to do this anymore," she said. “But we refuse to stop until people desist from throwing away perfectly good items and treating them as garbage."

She wants to change the way we view trash.

“It only takes one dumpster dive to prove we've got a long way to go. We live in a throwaway culture and mom and I won't stop diving until something changes. Until we wise up and are more mindful about the way we treat our planet, dumpster diving gives me a perfect way to carry on spending quality with my mom!"

To keep up with the duo's dumpster diving antics, visit www.youtube.com/dumpsterchicks