Thursday, January 20, 2011

Dumpster diving

In the rural parts of our county, we have no garbage service. Instead, there are dumpsters located in various spots where people can put their trash. This is a blessing for those whose livelihood includes salvaging. I know there are a number of people who make a fairly decent living salvaging usable items from the dumpsters scattered around the county, either by cleaning stuff up and selling it, or by selling items to scrap dealers. It's all a tidy way to handle refuse.

People who have things they no longer want will leave the items beside the dumpsters (sometimes with little signs that say "Take me home with you, I work just fine" or "Free to good home" or whatever). We've taken a couple of bicycles the girls have outgrown and left them beside the dumpsters for another parent to bring home to his kid.

And we've had a number of lucky finds ourselves. One time shortly after we moved to Idaho, I was startled to find a beautiful and intact ladies' vanity table thrown away. The only thing wrong with it was one drawer was missing. So I fished it out of the dumpster, cleaned it up, and we've used it as a sewing table ever since.

Don took a dumpster run the other day. He came hurrying back, collected me, and we went to salvage an enormous load of aluminum siding that someone had dumped. Unfortunately they put the siding IN the dumpsters rather than piled NEXT to a dumpster, so it meant a lot of leaning over the filthy sides of the metal bins and eventually climbing in to hand stuff out.

But the haul was fabulous. We lost count but think we got about ninety sheets of siding. Don grinned about it for hours. What a bonanza! Outbuildings, here we come!

The truck tires compressed under all the weight.

Of course, once I got home I consigned every garment I was wearing to the wash...


  1. You're kidding me. If nothing else, they coulda sold it as scrap! That's an amazing jackpot. :)

    I adore dumpster diving, myself.

  2. Wow, a lucky find! I see lots of additional storage in your future :)

  3. Congratulations on an amazing find! I love going to second hand stores and finding bikes and the like, but my family looks at me with pity when I tell them I found a bike for my daughter for $9! I don't see what's so wrong with it. I think it's being wise with what God has blessed you with.


  4. Wow! Those sheets are expensive!

  5. The only place I have ever gone dumpster diving is the Michael's dumpster. I asked permission first and the manager said he appreciated my asking, but just go ahead. The first time I got a paper rack for my scrapbook paper. The next time, I got 2 paper racks and 4 cases of those net-wrapped pine cones and about 100 packages with one glue bottle and 2 glue sticks in each package. I could have picked up the pine cones while we out elk hunting, but I figured I might as well take them, they were in the trash. Free decorations for the church as well as our house, and several others who I offered them too. Yes, I have more than enough scrapbook paper to fill all 3 racks.

  6. That was a fantastic find!! Ohh..if I could only find that to cover my goat houses....

    My best dumpster find so far is a rocking chair...more of a glider chair actually. The only thing wrong with it was a stained cushion and broken spring in the seat. I replaced the springs with a piece of plywood, recovered the cushions and have rocked three babies to sleep the past three years since!

  7. I've gotten a nice dining room table, a set of speakers for my computer, and numerous other items from next to and in the dumpster.

  8. Way to go. And a big lucky you for having a hubby all about dumpster diving. I have several pieces of furniture out of the dumpsters. I go curbing with a girlfriend every 3-4 weeks. Or, when we are in the mood and have time. We always find something good. From baskets, pumpkins, to furniture and plants. What a good snatch for you all.

  9. Great score, you can use those just about anywhere!

    One of the rural places I lived in had a (centrally located) telephone pole that you could post garage sale ads on....anyone who had extra construction type stuff left over also use to stick a "free for the hauling" ads on there too...everyone in town would read that pole on a regular basis, before the local paper even LOL.....

    I know, it must have been a yucky feeling having to actually get IN THERE, but it's so worth it sometimes.....

  10. It is not "dumpster diving".

    It is "creative refuse re-purposing".

    My first job as a stock clerk at a 7-11 included trash stomping. It would probably be illegal now to have a 16 year old climb in a dumpster and stomp around in it being a human trash compactor. That experience made it less objectionable in my (much) later years.

    I see it as capital preservation.

    My thinking is as follows. Treasure and labor were expended in the creation of items so rescued. This means that every item has some sort of measurable value.

    When an item is creatively re-purposed that value is carried forward.

    When an item is not re-purposed, that value is lost and the cost to dispose of it is deducted from the world capital resources.

    Every time I save something from the dump, I am doing my part to prevent a (very) small loss of value to the world at large.

    At least, that is what I tell my long suffering wife...

    It could be that I am merely an unrepentent pack-rat... B-)

  11. Having just moved, I found dumpster diving much more successful for finding boxes for moving than to go to businesses to ask for boxes. Grocery stores can be a good source of food too... I'm all about second hand. It can be fun too. And yes, I've had to climb in for boxes or let my kids do it.

  12. ALthough I enjoy new things, I also get a real kick out of finding something that has been discarded and turning it into something I (or others) can enjoy.

    Omce, many years ago when I lived in an unfurnished apartment and had nothing with which to furnish it, I saw an old recliner dumped into the ditch on the way to work. A friend from work helped me load it into my little truck and I got it home, wiped it down and sat in it. It was then that I realized why it had been tossed out in the first place - a metal piece was just under the leather seat covering and poked my backside quite sharply when I sat down. Since that day, I have been very sure to choose my scavanger finds carefully.

    Anonymous Patriot

  13. I too have rescued several items that were just fine from the landfill. I don't have kids yet, but when I do I already have an awesome Spiderman and Disney princess bikes and a covered bike trailer.


  14. Love dumpster diving! My husband was so very much opposed to it when we were first married but I think he wised up when we would find cool stuff. We have found lots of goodies that way. I like to place my stuff next to the trash too but after having not one, but two, computer cases trashed we are trying to figure out another way to give stuff away. I would rather give it to someone then give it to the thrift store because then you have to pay for it. I like to bless others! Great find Patrice!

    Ouida Gabriel

  15. To give items another life try

    You can also find things you need there too.


  16. Oh man, I'm salivating over that photo! The things I could build!

    Well done.

  17. I've always loved "Treasure Hunting" too! My kids have grown up doing this - lol.

    Here on base, with so many people PCSing (Permanent Change of Station, that is moving)all the time, people are always putting things out by the dumpsters.

    We've been able to fully carpet our apt; we've found bikes and toys (one my older son has been saving for MONTHS to give his sister this weekend), etc. My 5 yr old even spotted a set of dishes. He called me over and as I was saying, "Oh honey, we already have dishes." I realized they were our EXACT pattern! So, now we have more than enough dishes/bowls for when single soldiers join us for holiday meals :)

    Gotta teach'em young!

  18. LOL KatieJ you reminded me of the dumpster diving extravaganza we had back in 91 when we closed Zweibrucken. We were finding all kinds of stuff in there, most of it brand new, and that was just the stuff the offices were clearing out. Going through housing was unbelievable.

  19. My G-d!! You won the lottery!!!

    Good for Don that he found it first.

    It would have been gone if I had known about it, but then I would have had to drive across three states...

  20. Land sakes....great find!
    Last time I checked those sheets were around $8 bucks each!
    $8 x 90 = $720 !!!!!!!!!!
    Donna G.

  21. Great find, GOD was definitely looking down and blessing you!

  22. At our old place, the county landfill had a big shed called 'Trash or Treasure' and the workers would direct you to drop off your stuff there if it was too good for trash, giving other people a chance to take it home. We used to go there every week! We found lots of great stuff, some to sell, some to keep. I scored hundreds of canning jars there once. My favorite is an old cabinet from the late 1800s... We had the van that day and I spotted it and knew it was MINE, LOL, but dang it, it wouldn't fit in the van. I told my husband to leave me there and go home and get the truck, but lucky for us, someone heard us talking and offered his truck and followed us home! After I cleaned up all the poop (it must have been in a barn or something), I spotted a date under the drawer and it said 1878!! We moved and we miss that place, but last I heard, they closed up the shed after some people kept getting into fights over some items. tsk tsk! What a shame to lose a place like that.

  23. In China finding a gold mine like that may have caused blood to flow.

  24. My goodness am I ever jealous. I just priced those at Lowe's today and they are around $15 EACH! Maybe I'll put off building that extra chicken coop for a while... :)