Profit, Art... and Priceless Treasures... From Trash
by Jacqueline Corbett
"Dumpster diving", often a survival technique for the hungry and homeless, can, for believers and visionaries, be an exciting treasure hunt yielding antiques, vintage collectibles, and exciting finds waiting to be turned into art.
For some, dumpsters and garbage piles are sources of priceless treasures (some very eBay-able). For others, they are a stash of wonderful "raw materials" waiting to be made into objects of art. For yet others, a source of food, clothing, decorative and useful items for the home.
For those addicted, they can be a never-ending and inexpensive source of amusement ... providing a "rush" unequalled even by the finest flea market or thrift store find. Definitely the "thrill of the hunt"... and then some.
There is something both magical and mystical about "dumpster diving". Not only are you "rescuing" something of value from almost certain oblivion -- but you are also receiving a "surprise gift from the Universe" that is totally free.
"Dumpster diving" has become almost fashionable these days... with mentions of it showing up in the popular media.
I discovered it by chance over 20 years ago, after "starting over" in the mountains of North Carolina.
At the time, unattended dumpsters were the way garbage was dealt with in all but the most urban areas of Western North Carolina. Whole houseful's of belongings would often wind up in the dumpsters ... creating an afternoon's worth of entertainment... a veritable "archeological dig" of sorts as you progressed through layers of discarded objects... looking for "the good stuff".
Yielding treasures to be cherished like the cast iron monkey doorstop that followed me to Philadelphia and back... or the numerous household and clothing items that found their way to Asheville's Dreamland Flea Market, helping pay the $435 a month rent on our 3 story, 4 bedroom 3 bath rental home (another of my amazing finds!).
Not only has dumpster diving been an now and then source of amusement, and occasional sustenance, but I personally find it to be one of the highest forms of re-cycling -- and a marvelous way to practice receiving "manna" from the Universe.
How the Matching Color Monitor Magically Appeared
I am still in awe of the amazing way the matching HP Pavilion 15" Color Monitor came into my possession. There was no doubt in my mind that THIS was not just a coincidence.
Six months earlier, I had purchased an HP Pavilion computer. Really tight for cash, I had no choice but to make do with an old Dell monitor with terrible color.
One Wednesday evening, I took the "long way home" from work. As I sped by the Jr. League Thrift Store in Bryn Mawr -- a stop on the rather ritzy Philadelphia 'Main Line' and one of my favorite Saturday afternoon places to hunt for treasure -- I spotted a bunch of interesting looking chairs sitting next to the store's dumpster.
I quickly did a U-turn.
Not only was one of the chairs a great find, but inside of the dumpster I spotted an HP color monitor. I brought it home and hooked it up to my computer. It worked perfectly. I now finally had a place to hang the speakers that had come with my computer -- and could build webpages and see them in vibrant color.
I priced the monitor at Comp USA at $250.00.
I felt -- and still do -- truly blessed. For I was undoubtedly the perfect recipient of this monitor which had been discarded by someone who no doubt had upgraded to a much bigger and nicer monitor. Led to it by some mysterious guidance for which I am both eternally grateful and continuously in awe.
That same dumpster has before and since yielded many another treasure. Here's just a brief and very partial list from memory.
A matched set of four pink Pyrex refrigerator dishes from the '50's. Sold on eBay for $55.00.
A blue Uncle Sam cash register bank. Sold on eBay for about $25.
A gorgeous set of lapis blue Mikasa dishes minus a cup or two which I still treasure.
Several boxes of vintage LP's in mint condition..
Untold numbers of intriguing books including a signed Howard Cosell autobiography which I sold on eBay for about $17.
A wonderful native American beaded purse and matching beaded necklace.
You'll see from this list that the right dumpster can indeed be a very profitable and pleasurable place to "dive".
Curbside Trash Heaps in Fancy Neighborhoods Can Often Yield Wonderful Finds
Some folks purportedly make a very nice living just by making afterhours rounds of upscale neighborhoods on trash takeout night and reselling their finds.
I've haven't done that -- yet -- but I did make quite a haul one afternoon after spotting a huge trashpile in the front yard of a Dexter Hill home whose basement had been inundated by a recent flood and quickly applying my brakes and making a U-turn. An hour or two later, I walked back to the car with an assortment of goodies which included a small oriental carpet, a delightful vintage terracotta jug from some foreign country, several vintage Christmas ornaments in the form of birds and shells, two tall brass lamps, and an monogramed Irish linen bed sheet. More 'gifts from the Universe' as I've come to call them.
What the 'Mainstream Press' is Saying About Dumpster Diving
Dumpster Diving for Profit and Passion Meet this group of artists, collectors and junkaholics — founding members of Philadelphia’s Dumpster Divers — who are constantly in search of discarded cultural artifacts ranging from marbles to Lego pieces to create their specialized work.
Trashopia.comTo encourage recycling and creative reuse through educational displays and events.
SCRAP (Scroungers' Center for Re-Usable Art Parts) acts as a nonprofit conduit for unwanted materials. SCRAP collects materials from businesses and individuals that would other wise be thrown away, and distributes them to art and educational groups.
Recipients of materials include schools, daycare centers, museums, homeless shelters, senior citizen groups, neighborhood centers, theater groups, summer camps, and many other nonprofit groups. These organizations transform SCRAP materials into sculptures, paintings, and other masterpieces. "...By breathing new life into old objects, SCRAP reduces the amount of waste going to crowded landfills. By offering low cost art and re-use workshops and providing schools and organizations with badly needed art supplies, SCRAP stimulates creativity and environmental awareness. Nourished by so many wonderful SCRAP treasures, Children and adults learn how to 'REDUCE, RE-USE AND RECYCLE.' ..."
AnotherConfessions of a Bottom Feeder "I dumpster dive every weekend with my kids. They love it, and so do I. My oldest is the envy of all the kids on the block because he has his own TV. With the exception of buying new mattresses, I have furnished an entire house on dumpster dive finds. One can find dishes, glasses, bedding (washed in bleach in hot water of course), furniture, tables, the list goes on. There is nothing I haven't been able to find in a dumpster. We have the best luck in dumpsters around apartments. Especially around the first of the month. Kind of keep an eye out for the apartment complexes that seem to have high turn over rate. And then around the first of the month, you can find clothes, furniture, lamps, dishes. I take it all and then once a month load the car up with the baby clothes and other things that I have found and don't need, and donate them to the Goodwill. To be perfectly honest, I haven't had to buy my kids clothes in a very long time. Others are so willing to throw theirs out. Just make sure to wear good shoes and stuff because there is always a lot of glass and stuff around. I haven't done this, but I have read that one can even find food in dumpsters behind grocery stores and bread stores. It's possible, but I can't seem to take dumpster diving to that "level." My favorite stories are the ones where people have supposedly found antiques and the likes from dumpsters. I'd sure like that to happen to me!!!"
Trash Thrash "The ins and outs, ups and downs of dumpster diving.... sharp- eyed divers have scored such bounty as a working Pentium computer (sans keyboard), numerous mice, modems, and other computer supplies; color TVs, chairs, china, jewelry (one guy found an engagement ring in a trash bin and promptly proposed to his girlfriend); a Ralph Lauren suede skirt, a complete swing record collection, a set of lawn furniture, wood scraps and lumber (often used for firewood); a set of slides from someone's trip to Moscow, miles of Christmas lights, an Asteroids video game player, a loaded handgun (excuse me?), $37.27 worth of pennies in a shoe box, and even--someone "swears to God"--a John Deere tractor...."
Princeton University Dumpster Divers "... Alex recently received a scholarship to Oxford University for adopting a lifestyle of "freeganism" through which he subsists primarily on other people's trash. Meet him and Cliff and Sean who spend their time working at the Princeton University's free bike co-op..."
Recycling awareness ecard... and many other "awareness" cards. CLICK HERE.
Recommended Book On "Dumpster Diving"
Art and Science of Dumpster Diving"Why oh why did I wait so long to buy this book? When I think of all the great finds I have made in dumpsters, it brings tears to my eyes. Why do people throw away such perfectly good stuff? Everything from books to food to computers! Believe it or not, the computer I am typing this review on came from a dumpster! If you are like me, you are in college and must squeeze every last cent out of your paycheck, this book is a god-send. And remember, there is wealth to be had in this world, you just have to know where to look....Start with the dumpsters!" A review from Amazon.com
Share the Loot
Dumpster Dive Drop by this site and leave a message to share YOUR favorite dumpster with the world: "....Behind the Super"G" (That's off I-795.) there's a dumpster at EACH corner of the rear. Enough food to sustain 20 families daily. WHAT A SCORE!!! NO LOCKS!!!! NO COMPACTOR. PULL A CAR UP!!! (Best after dark.)"
Modern Day Food Foraging "....Recently I passed the health food store dumpster on my daily walk. I saw a big box of vitamin and herb bottles that had been discarded after an attempt to sell them for 50% off. It was an excellent brand, but evidently being discontinued. Later, after the store had closed for the evening, A friend drove me and my most athletic son back to the dumpster where he quickly hopped in and retrieved the heavy treasure box. We all felt like members of the Butch Cassidy gang after pulling out with more than $770.00 worth of nutritional products. (Not counting tax!) Not bad for five minutes worth of foraging! Several friends also benefited from this dumpster raid as the valuable supplements and herbs were spread around according to individual needs...."
BGTV's Introduction to Dumpster Diving "... In this short video preview.... host Kevin Contreras introduces the excitement and benefits of recycling house parts, including the deconstruction of the structure that previously existed where he built, as well as treasures he discovers for the construction of his new straw bale home...."
Lists of Finds
"Most unusual find: a church dumpster 1/4 full of erotic magazines and rubber adult recreational equipment ... traded the lot to a used bookstore for a volume on children's toys in the middle ages and a stack of knitting magazines" from a reader ofGarbage Picking Goodies
"Over the years, it has become accepted that the items we no longer have use for are trash. What millions of people fail to realize is that the concept of trash is based on our perception. Dump & Run is an effort to change that perception."
"We've all heard the phrase "One person's trash is another's treasure" but few people ever go so far as donating the items they no longer have use for. While at Syracuse University, Lisa Heller, the founder of Dump and Run, lost a ring that her grandmother had given her and decided to check the dumpster for it as a last resort. She never found the ring, but was amazed at what she did find. Upon looking in the dumpster Lisa found many perfectly usable items that had been discarded by students. She found, clothing, furniture, lamps, approximately enough canned food to feed a family of four for a week and even a cigar box full of rare stamps, one of which was worth $400.00."
"Lisa was awestruck by the amount of usable items being sent to the landfill. For the rest of her stay at Syracuse and her first year at the University of Richmond, Lisa saved as many things as she could from the dumpsters. She kept some items for herself, and took the balance of the items and donated them to Goodwill Industries. Her second year at Richmond she collected so many things that she had a lawn sale of her own to raise money for the University debate team and again gave the remaining portion to Goodwill. During her third year at Richmond, Lisa was very active in the Sierra Club, and with the help of both Richmond's on and off campus chapters she organized an official effort to collect and sell the recyclable items. The proceeds from the sale resulted in a sizable donation to the Sierra Club. By 2000, the second year of Lisa's official effort, the awareness within the campus community about Dump & Run had increased so dramatically that discarded items at the end of the school year had decreased by approximately 50%."
Campus Ecology - a national network of campus activists and a great resource for sustainability projects happening at colleges across the country!
Center for A New American Dream - dedicated to helping individuals and institutions reduce and shift consumption to enhance quality of life and protect the environment whose goal is to encourage more Americans to adopt the motto: MORE FUN, LESS STUFF!!
The Facts About Diving in New HampshireInteresting links to Supreme Court ruling... FBI Bulletin... and also a place to share your finds. Includes an interesting note on how Chuck E. Cheese smashes their discarded games.
"The officers knew of no laws in Maine that prohibit dumpster diving. The only legal problem they could imagine was if the dumpster was located on private property, and the owner complained ... then, technically, you'd be trespassing. But even then, the police would merely give you a warning. The police in one town said they knew of several local people who dumpster-dived regularly ... it never occurred to these officers to stop them...." Dumpster Divas: Reviewer Finds Trash "to Dive For" by Amy Dacyczyn
Are you homeless? You'll survive.
Take a tip and dumpster dive!
Jump a dumpster —— It's okay.
No one will get in your way.
Sneak up on it snaily slow,
pirouette and do-si-do:
Protocol is satisfied.
Do a flip and hop inside!
Find you there whate'er you need.
Food and clothing? Guaranteed!
Gourmet dining interest you?
Grubs aplenty, almost new.
Eat it raw. Slurp some slime.
If it moves, it's dinnertime!
Rub it well, now. Don't be dumb.
Never know where That came from.
Follow fashions? Try some on.
Dumpster duck to dumpster swan!
Party dress and evening gown ——
maybe these'll sell uptown.
Swipe a sweater. Share a shoe.
Huff a quicky. Sniff some glue.
Loot the laundry. Wear a wig.
Pop a cork and have a swig.
Lousy weather? Listen, Sid,
many dumpsters have a lid.
If you're bored of standing still,
roll your dumpster down a hill!
Everything you need's in there.
Bounty's plenty. All can share.
When you're finished, don't explode.
There's another down the road.