Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Dumpsters are Awesome

Note: I'm setting up auto publish for this one. When this goes live, I'll be at one of the Tea Parties near The Homestead. Hopefully, my American readers will be doing the same.


I don’t go Dumpster diving very often, mostly because the Dumpsters within reasonable distance of my house are useless. Household garbage? I have plenty of my own, thanks. However, I keep an eye on the trash when I’m in better places, because I never know what useful thing I’ll find.

If you want to salvage perfectly-good items – even if you just sell them for a nice little profit – there are plenty of great Dumpsters out there. My best suggestion is to hang out on or near a university campus during the last week or two of school. Students are leaving their rented housing, and some will trash perfectly-good things.

You can find food in these Dumpsters, because students will just throw away twenty, fifty, a hundred bucks’ worth of canned goods and other such items. This is easier than hauling that food back home, or donating it to a local food pantry, which would be the responsible things to do with one’s resources. If you’re observant and cautious, you won’t poison yourself with canned goods that you fished out of a dorm’s Dumpster. Common sense tells you to bypass cans that are stained, dented, leaking, or otherwise not right, right? Right. (Heh. Three “rights” in a row, and pretty much grammatically correct. Awesome.) Avoid the foods that you’re not sure about and you’ll be fine.

Students trash all sorts of other goods, too. School supplies are common, including outdated textbooks. Do you home-school your children? Do you want something interesting and, hopefully, useful to read? Check out the Dumpsters. If the campus bookstore won’t buy back the book, some kids will throw it away. It’s still good, and the information in the thing is still accurate. It’s just not the publisher’s latest edition, that’s all. I have a 2003 edition textbook that’s still perfectly good. It just wasn’t worth even one penny to the bookstore, that’s all.

Students will sometimes throw away almost-new furniture. Do you need an end table? Are you looking to replace your couch? Hang out at the university. Many students will try to re-home, store, or sell their furniture, but some will just put it all out at the curb. This is particularly true at “nicer” schools, where the students’ parents tend to pay the bills. If you look around, and you’re fortunate, you could very well furnish a good bit of your living room and family area with discarded items. One of my professors FULLY furnished a rented house during graduate school by watching the curbs and picking up furniture that other students discarded.

Grocery stores also tend to have good Dumpsters if you’re hungry. Some stores lock up, and guard, their trash, but others don’t. If you can get in without risking trespassing charges, it’s worth a look.

Look for construction, demolition, and remodeling sites when you’re out and about. One of my brothers once took on a side job for his boss. His task? Hauling off the old materials from the boss’ home. Boss man was remodeling, and wanted all the old things gone. My brother got paid a little bit of cash, on the side, to dispose of all this stuff. However, we kept a good bit of stuff – like the almost-new water heater, the perfectly-good hot tub, the bathroom and kitchen sinks, et cetera – because they were still in fine condition, and we could put them to good use. My brother brought home doors and windows, too.

Oh, sure, there was some broken Sheetrock, and a pile of useless wood, to haul off. But we had a bonfire in the side yard and just burned all that junk. That’s a small price to pay, I think, for a big pile of good building materials.

One of my other brothers, the carpenter, sometimes brings home scrap materials. They aren’t any good to other people, so he sometimes gets them from his boss. Lately, he’s been bringing home pretty-good pieces of lumber, which are always useful around here. A good bit of the wood is new, in fact, and long/large enough to actually be useful.

Can you get into the city dump? My Dad used to do this when we lived in South Texas. One of the dumps in that area had a chain-link fence around the perimeter, but it had a hole that was almost big enough for him to drive his cargo van through. At night, he’d back up to that big hole, hop out, and go see what he could find.

Dad brought home everything from solid-wood desks and chairs to small items, like lamps and building materials. Nobody wanted these things anymore, even though they were still in fine condition, so Dad loaded them into his van and gave them good homes. American society is full of wasteful people, even when the economy sucks. People will throw away things for bizarre reasons, or no reason at all. When you realize, then accept, this, the treasure hunting can begin.

That applies even now, with the economy looking like dog poop. There are still people out there who are remodeling their homes, cleaning out their storage buildings, et cetera – and discarding things that could be sold or given away. Take advantage of their wastefulness and use their unwanted resources to get a big pile of things that you can put to good use.

Useful Links:

On Dumpster Diving, by Lars Eighner. This gentleman was homeless in Austin, Texas for a while; this personal essay is crammed full of his firsthand knowledge of Dumpster diving and related topics. Pretty much everything you could possibly want to know about food safety. How long are those canned goods really safe to eat? Find out here!

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