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Best thing you ever pulled from a dumpster or out of someone's garbage?

 
gardener
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I recently grabbed two amazing stainless steel racks out of a dumpster.  They stand about 6' tall and have 5 heavy wire shelves.  I think they used to be used to store those big commercial soda canisters, because the shelves have labels on them: Dr. Pepper, Diet Coke, etc.

I ain't to proud to pick.

I KNOW that there are some scroungers on this forum.  What's the best thing you ever pulled out of a dumpster or off the side of the road on garbage day?
 
gardener
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My favorite score  is probably the hundreds of dollars worth of live trees I snagged from home despot.
Not the most profitable, valuable thing, just the most satisfying.

 
pollinator
Posts: 1529
Location: northern California
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The single best thing....wow, that's a hard one in a 20 plus year career at dumpster diving!  Several objects are still in frequent use ten-plus years later, including a 10 gallon stainless steel pot (restaurant dumpster, with scorch on the bottom.  A few days with ash and water in it and scrubbed clean.  Plus a few 2 and 3 gallon size, with lids, similar).  Or the huge golf or baseball practice safety net, which I'm still using for quick poultry pens. I still have a piece of a heavy rubberized truck tarp over my generator....it used to be huge and was used to cover this and that.   I have built several sheds and cabins largely out of the dumpsters....
 
master steward
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Personally, I've never actually dragged something from a dumpster, but my husband is a huge dumpster diver, and I've been around for a few of his "look at that dumpster!" spur-of-the-moment dives.

My most memorable dive, and probably snagged us the "best" thing, was our "Easter Egg Basket" dumpster dive. He, his mom, and I were driving home from church one Easter Sunday, and looked out the window at a catholic school, and saw they had three huge dumpsters full of stuff! We dubbed them our Easter Baskets and went diving! I thing we got a shelving unit, some sort of cleaning device, and an epic wooden rocking horse. This was a good 10+ years ago, 4 years before we had kids, but we couldn't pass it up! We stored it in our basement, and hauled it with us to our new home, and both our kids love riding on it!

I dug around through my old pictures, and here's my son--who's now almost 6--riding on it as a baby. It's a bit blurry, and I'll try to take a better picture tomorrow!

I'll also ask my husband what his favorite haul was from a dumper dive, as this sort of thread is right up his alley!
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Posts: 554
Location: Australia, New South Wales. Köppen: Cfa (Humid Subtropical), USDA: 10/11
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The only two things I recall retrieving from a bin is a small Pyrex mixing bowl that was thrown out by family when they cleared my Uncle’s place – unfortunately missed a massive amount of good stuff, including antique furniture that others didn’t want!

The other is a dime-a-dozen stainless steel laundry tub for garden use – cleaning fish, vegetables, etc.

However, I’ve inherited my Dad’s ‘dumpster dive’ stuff, which is probably of historical significance and should be in a museum. He worked on the waterfront during and after the War when many Allied ships and submarines were using Sydney Harbour as a base, or for refit after the Pacific and Coral Sea battles.

From an American Submarine: they threw out several garbage bins of stuff and he could only get a few things – a Nash Metalware 8 oz ladle (heavy enough to be used as a weapon!), and, one of the actual garbage bins used on the Sub (Americans are so polite, not only do they dump their garbage here, they also supply the bins to hold it!). That bin has been repaired several times over the years and is still capable of holding things. World’s oldest garbage bin?

From an Aussie Destroyer: Allied Forces Tablespoon and two naval gun shell bottom casings. The heavy shell casings were polished and used as weighty doorstops.

One typical observation – things made back ‘then’ were meant to last. No wonder ships and submarines sunk so quickly – the cutlery was SO heavy!


All of these items are still used regularly.

 
pioneer
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Location: Sydney, Australia. Subtropics
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Wow, super interesting replies. My best dumpster find here in Sydney was an enormous rose quartz rock crystal, with the price tag of $120 still on it!
 
gardener
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I still think fondly about a pair of nearly-new Doc Martens I got out of my apartment building's "dumpster room" when I lived in Japan. not only could I not find shoes I liked in my enormous-foreign-devil size, Docs would have cost me more than I ever would have been willing to pay.
(my brother in law may have taken the cake though- he created a business driving around and collecting air conditioners that were out for trash collection where he lived, taking them apart and selling the metals. It turned in to a decent sized business and he made some decent coin, til the city realized they could be making that money and set up their own program. Good while it lasted.)
 
steward
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Wow! Neat stories.

While I cringe at seeing myself, here's a dumpster find of mine:



We're still using this pan.
 
pollinator
Posts: 92
Location: Ontario - zone 5b
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Definitely not too proud to scrounge - in fact, proud to scrounge!

I lived for a while in a wealthy city, where large item pickup was 1 or 2 x per month!!! I often thought I could make money if I owned a trailer, just driving around and picking stuff up. Couches, dressers, bedroom sets, wall units, bookcases.... unfortunately I had a 400 sq ft apartment and a subcompact car.

I did get a few good scores, just in the back alley... absolute best was - an $800 bike that, judging by the tires, had been used once. Just needed air in the tires and the chain cleaned. Bizarre.

But also:
-many, many extra large plant pots that no longer matched people's decor - my landlord threw hers out every season, so I brought them to my dads
-shoe rack
-6! Laundry bins and 4 expensive plastic grocery buckets, and some rubbermaid bins (aka, my closet organization system)
- suitcases
- tiny pyrex glass bowls in 2 sizes
- expensive matching table and floor lamps
- all the boxes I needed when I moved (uhaul and home Depot brand moving boxes, used once.  Score!)

My desk/kitchen table and two chairs were side of the road finds that I painted. My dad's house is full of stuff from the local "mall" ( a trailer at the dump where people put good stuff they no longer want)- two apple peeler corers, tools, some art, books, corningware and pyrex, side tables, etc, etc...
 
steward & bricolagier
Posts: 3233
Location: SW Missouri
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I'm with Alder Burns on this one, I'm building large amounts of my house out of second hand stuff, quite a lot of it dumpster kill. I sometimes make good money out of my trash picking habits.

Some of the things that would make most sense to most people that I have pulled out of the trash:
An 11 foot dome tent
A 14 inch cast iron skillet, brand new
Innumerable appliances
Full set of encyclopedias
Hundreds of pounds of metal shelving
Electric clothes dryer that needed a 50 cent fuse

We used to call it "dumpster season" when the local university spring semester ended, SO MUCH stuff got thrown out. (I'm a "don't waste anything!" type, it turned my stomach what got tossed.)
Bed Bundles: What you see is a mattress pad, unroll it, it has a bottom sheet, top sheet, couple of blankets, comforter, and a pillow in case all rolled up in it. (Don't wash your bedding, just peel and toss it....)

Finding full sets of dishes is common.
My friends kids used to ask me when they were going to move out of their parents house "Am I going to get a kitchen box?" "Sure, if you want one! What color?"  That kid would get a whole kitchen in a box, all matching if I could. Full set of dishes, silverware, pans, utensils, towels, hot pads, throw rugs, small appliances, ice cube trays, broom, mop, anything you need in a kitchen, usually a couple of cute things in there too, a pretty vase that matched or similar things.

When my best friend got married I asked her if dumpster kill and second hand was appropriate for her shower gifts, she said yeah, as long as it didn't look like it to the other guests. I asked, because just before that, I had been digging in a dumpster, lot of cool stuff, a guy came out with more trash, I asked him to save  me effort, just stack it there so I could sort it easy. The female who was dumping her apartment had a serious Victoria's Secret habit, and was tossing unopened drawer sachets, drawer liners, padded hangers, etc. (Never even OPENED it. I hope that guy had the sense to dump that female, that's not a good sign!) So for her shower, I had a pile of boxes, and a story: Her cats went to the store for gifts for her shower, they got her all of these (multiple gifts: shower curtains, bath mats, soap dish, etc) They told me to wrap them, I told them "Will do, but that's not what a shower means." They were terribly embarrassed, they thought they knew about showers! So they went back, and got (multiple gifts: set of mugs with kitties on them, pretty kitchen towels, a set of steak knives, etc) My cat likes scented things, she picked these (multiple gifts: potpourri in pretty dishes, scented sachets, drawer liners, padded hangers) I like pretty things so I got these (multiple gifts: full set of real silver silverware in a wooden box, lace curtains, silk scarf, antique china that matched her set.) I have forgotten most of what I came up with for that whole game. This is a very incomplete list. I do recall her laughing herself silly, as more and more came out (blamed on the cats) afterward she said "So how much cash outlay did you put into that pile?" "Under $20.00! :D" I had paid for one of the pieces of the antique china, and the silverware set. Even the wrapping paper was dumpster kill (and none of it Christmas or birthday paper!) (bunch of it was Victoria's Secret, I didn't even know they SOLD all this stuff!)

When we moved to Missouri, it was interesting to watch as I chose what got packed and what didn't make the cut how much of my keep pile had been dumpster kill. The rental we are currently in, sitting at my desk, I see at least 20 items in this room that came out of the trash. All of it matches, works for what we want. I'm a connoisseur of trash :) I can see what I want in my head, and bring home any parts that match it. Kind of like doing a jigsaw puzzle, where you look at the pieces and pick out the ones that will make the part you are working on. Just ignore the rest. I tend to scoop out the rest, and take it to the thrift stores, or senior citizens center, or leave toys in the park with a free sign on them. I hate seeing good stuff wasted, even if I don't want it. I used to take it to the flea market and sell it, one year after dumpster season, after I had taken out all I wanted, and my friends did too, the rest made me over $700.00 at the flea market.

Formidable Vegetable has a song called "No Such Thing as Waste" and he uses the word "disgrace" in connection with waste. I TOTALLY agree. It's disgraceful that I can find so much excellent stuff in the trash. It really is. It's bad manners toward the whole Earth.

 
master pollinator
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A 20 KW pto generator.

It was ugly and rusted, beat up and bent, but after changing the gear oil, prying out the dents, painting it, and then buying a new PTO shaft for it, I had an $1800 generator working for around $200. I would have spent more than that for a 4000 watt generator than what I have in a 20,000 watt generator.

This is the ugly dumpster duckling now hardwired into my home.



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20 KW generator
 
gardener
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I have to go to the way back machine for this one.  Back when I was in grad school we used to get all kinds of great things from the apartment building's dumpster.  When people would move out they would often times just put stuff out by the dumpster.  We got a lot of furniture that way.  One time I snagged a vacuum cleaner.  It was plugged up and needed to be cleaned out before it could run.  Upon cleaning it I found a gold ring!  Wow.  

When my kids were going home from college each spring I always saw that the dumpsters were full of amazing stuff including unopened containers of all sorts of food...uggh...hate seeing so much good stuff tossed out!  I highly suggest hitting the dumpsters right after the college kids leave if you're near a school.
 
Posts: 86
Location: Wichita, Kansas, United States
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I've saved hundreds of dollars picking up pallets and other wood from in and around dumpsters.  I have a stool and some shelves built from that wood.  I've given away several things made of that wood and made props for church plays.
My grandson and I are building him a treasure chest from scrounged wood.  We are even using home made glue that is water proof.  (I can explain that if anybody is interested.)  The handles will be made of salvaged copper pipe.

I pick up nearly every microwave I find.  I teach science and they have several bits and bobs that are good for use in science classes.
Staff note (Pearl Sutton):

Phil posted the glue recipe in the frugality forum. It's not organic at all, but looks really effective if that's not the priority to you. I'm going to try it!! https://permies.com/t/122270/Water-Proof-Glue#980855

 
gardener
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When I got to law school about a quarter century ago I had basically the contents of two suitcases.  Over three years I furnished a whole apartment from the throwaway items of departing students (I lived in a highrise university building that had a "garbage room" on each floor where people would leave the items too large to fit in the garbage chute to the dumpster in the basement.)  And when I left?  Except for what fit in my sedan, it all went back down the hall to the garbage room.  Hopefully it found new homes with younger students before the maintenance guys loaded it into the cargo elevator.  

It is absolutely the case that college kids leaving campus throw away tons of amazing, high-quality, stuff.  Coming from "poor folk" I was astounded by the pickings!  And at first I was contemptuous of wasteful rich kids.  But here is the reality, which confronted me by the time it was my turn to leave:

-- you are hundreds or thousands of miles from "home" or the location of your new job.
-- it's very likely you don't have permanent housing lined up yet at your next destination.
-- you probably live in a building where a garage sale is impossible: a controlled-access building, explicit prohibitions in your lease, etc.
-- your lease or your dorm access expires within days -- sometimes hours! -- after your final academic events; you have to clear your room in a hurry.
-- at that moment in your life you are probably exhausted from weeks of study, finals, and emotionally-complex departure rituals
-- movers or a rental truck would cost hundreds or thousands to load up and transport the stuff; is it worth it? Where to have them take it?
-- if you will have a roommate situation at your next destination, there may not be room for your shit there either.

All those factors combine into a wall of hopelessness.  "Fuckit, throw it all out, move on to the next stage of life" is a perfectly rational, if wasteful, reaction.   Some of the "rich kids" were less wasteful of the stuff than the rest of us; they could afford to call a mover, have their stuff packed by servants, and ship it, no worries.  (A few of the "big firm" law job offers in those days came with reimbursement of moving expenses, so why not?)  It was those of us with inherited "good stuff" that had no options; all of the "don't throw it away" choices would involve spending money, time, and mental resources that we just didn't have in that moment.  

It seems like the amazing quality of campus dumpster diving comes up in every one of these threads, so I just thought I'd explain what I learned "from inside" about why that's so.  
 
steward
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The 4 yards of linen from which this tunic was sewn...
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Tunic
 
pioneer
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I used to dumpster dive stores right after holiday seasons were up. I once found 40 tins of Christmas cookies still sealed in those metal tins that are painted with Christmas scenes. Not my most profitable dive, but one of my favorites.
 
pollinator
Posts: 270
Location: Haiti
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One of those big cube shelving units about 7foot x 7foot. All the pieces were there. A friend spotted it while helping me move.
 
Posts: 84
Location: KY
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I once found a 1981 Burton snowboard that I sold on ebay for $680

Another good one was a 1986 Power wheels Bigfoot I sold on Craigslist for $100

I am always on the lookout, found numerous things I actually use, too
 
pollinator
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Location: West Virginny and Kentuck
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My first salvage was a set of cast iron frying pans at the end of the school term in college.  Is there a theme here?  They were filthy!  But they are still primary tools in my kitchen.

When I was growing up, there was a little old guy who travelled the alleys of my town pulling a wagon and salvaging from people's trash.  When I expressed sympathy for his decrepitude once, my mother corrected my perception.  She told me he was actually quite wealthy from his salvage career.

I have furnished an apartment in a new town in two weeks of curbside collections.  Beds, rugs, table and chair set, etc. etc.  It still amazes me what people toss.  Right now, my van is carrying 2 room sized bound rugs and three patio tables.

Possibly my favorite haul was from a renovation of the local library.  Slabs of white marble countertops and 8 oak armchairs, not to mention all the old shelving.  Those armchairs are now spread out over three households and they are indestructible, quite handsome and very comfortable.  The modern furniture used to replace them is ugly and seems designed to move people along.
 
master pollinator
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Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
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Not a dumpster,  but at the dump. A full pick up truck of brand new Pierre Cardin socks, with minor defects. Made some money on that score.  Waited until their company truck pulled away.  So, there's the added sweetness of getting away with it. 😈
............
To make it a fair contest, I'm not including anything from 24 years,  living off of the waste stream,  in the demolition business.  
Edit. Can't stop myself. ..  The house that my children grew up in.  Yay !!! I won,  I won, I won !!!  ...... what's that?.... my inner voice just said it's not a contest....oh.....self reflection. ..contemplating.... aaand ....... I'm back, and I still won😅
-----
Real edit this time. Looking at all of the loot, I  think we all won. And mother nature won, by giving all of this stuff a second life.
 
The only taste of success some people get is to take a bite out of you. Or this tiny ad:
Heat your home with the twigs that naturally fall of the trees in your yard
http://woodheat.net
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