The Culture of Throwing Away Anything Not Perfect

Last week I was out walking my dog on trash day. As I was walking past my neighbor’s trash heap (I say heap because they always have more trash than will fit in the trash can and they just pile it up on the road), I noticed a cute wire basket that was decorated with painted wooden sunflowers. I knew that it would look perfect in my kitchen, so I picked it up to see what was wrong with it. It was in great shape, except it was missing some dividers inside that would have turned the space into very useful compartments. The holders for the dividers were still there, but the slats themselves were missing. I knew that I could make some little dividers to fit it, so I decided to take it home.


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13 Responses to The Culture of Throwing Away Anything Not Perfect

  1. adreamwarrior says:

    While I’m not a “dumpster diver”, I do see alot of the things people throw out on my route.

    One of the things I have noticed is that the higher the value of the house, the more trash.

    Over the years I have “picked-up” several new or nearly new items. One thing I always do when I see something I would like to have is go knock on the door and ask.

    I have only been told no once, and I think that was because the couple was going thru a very messy divorce (I found this out later).

    I think of it like hunting on private land. “Always Ask Permission”

  2. Hilary says:

    I set up an entire store at my college with stuff people threw out at the end of the year. It was very successful! I think if you are used to buying things resale, then the “dumpster diving” thing becomes more normal because it’s just free resale. My hope with the store is that it would educate people about buying resale (or picking up free things for that matter!)

  3. minnie1928 says:

    I see so much stuff that is thrown away that is completely useful. If people really don’t want things that are still usable, why don’t they donate to the local Salvation Army or similar organization. Around here we have trash pickup 2 times per week. I usually only put one can out about one time out of three pickups (every week and a half or so). Other houses put 2 full cans out twice/week! To put this in some perspective, we are both families of 4. However, my recycling can is always full and always out, while there’s is not.

  4. Diane says:

    In our neighborhood people leave usable things beside the garbage can and others frequently pick them up to refurbish. Some are not even damaged – just “outgrown”. No one seems to object to others picking things up!

    When our office was in a nice apartment complex, people would leave brand new items next to the dumpster when they moved. We got lots of new items this way, without any effort other than picking them up.

    The sad thing was that if no one picked up these items they would be picked up with the trash… and there was a Goodwill store right across the street!

    People were not only too lazy to bother moving their possessions when they left, they couldn’t even deliver them to Goodwill.

    Unbelievable to me! Glad your neighbor got the message!

  5. jacasimov says:

    I also take usable items fro,m people’s trash if I have use for them. Sometimes, I’ve even turned around and resold them at a yardsale when I realized I couldn’t actually use them. I see nothing wrong with it, throwing it away is relinquishing your hold on it, you can’t control what happens after that. Personally, I think people should be pleased someone found a use for their cast-away items.

    The only real objection I have is when people go through the cans themselves. I’m not sure why I feel that way but it feels really invasive as if they’re trying to find information or something. I try to shred everything but I’m always a little bit weirded out by the idea of someone picking through my papers. Plus, very unsanitary to pick through the cans. Don’t believe me? Smell one.

    I also leave things out on top of the cans for people to take if I can no longer use them. They’re always gone in a day or two.

  6. Robb says:

    GREAT article! Thanks Jennifer! I really enjoyed reading it and I agree with you and the other posters!

  7. Cindy M says:

    I live on a fairly busy street corner. One thing is sure these days, anything I put out on my driveway or curb will disappear. I once contacted my waste collector that I’d be putting my old washer at the curb (they do monthly pickups on the bigger stuff). I looked out my front window not 10 minutes later and it was gone. I’ve had any kind of scrap wood taken. I put 2 used beat-up lawnmowers out and a guy in a gorgeous red sportscar pounded on my door and was thrilled to take them for me. Ditto 2 old window air conditioners in bad shape. I say God bless, if you can figure out how to make use of any of my old stuff, go for it. I think it’s wonderful that all of us can benefit from each other’s castoffs.

  8. ThiNg says:

    Loved this article!

    I stick a free sign on all the stuff I don’t want to toss. It’s always gone in 1-2 days. If it’s electronics I put it on the porch with a sign.

    Saves me driving to the dump and paying to get rid of it!

  9. janette says:

    My sister is the boss at the city dump and every week during the summer,she calls us to let us know what people have brought in to be thrown away. People only have to pay to dump stuff not to take it out of the landfill,so we have totally furnished our back yard of lawn furniture terra cotta ots and even plants and shrubs from the local greenhouse at the end of the season. We got our dining room table and an antique Hooser cabinet from there also. Our kids bikes come from the dump every summer and it’s so much fun to see what there is each week. Everything is sorted into different areas at the dump so we are never in the area where there’s food garbage…just usable furniture and metal. It’s a blast and our house and garden look like we spent a ton on our stuff. If we decide that we don’t like something, we just take it back!

  10. Pretty says:

    I make sure anything I throw out in the trash is completely destroyed (ie – clothes cut up) or has stuff too nasty to dig through added to it. Ever since my husband threw out my vacuum cleaner that I had between my car and the trash cans that was waiting for me to take to the repair shop by mistake, and someone took it off my curb within 5 minutes I make sure no one gets anything from my garbage again. I can never replace that vacuum, and I’ll be d**ned if anyone else gets anything else off of me. I work way too hard to buy my stuff!

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  12. Rob says:

    Well, legally, once it hits the curb, it’s public property. You’re fully within your rights to dig through people’s trash, and take whatever they’ve put out. I’ve got this *really* nice big painting in my room that my dad picked back when he was a garbage man. Not a print. A painting. As in somebody took the time to mix colors and use a brush on canvas. Someone tossed it out and the only problem with it is a small rip, like someone had accidentally poked a finger through the canvas. A small piece of masking tape on the back, and it’s as good as new.

  13. Harrison Davignon says:

    I try not to throw things away. For example my old computer desk and chair are beat up a little but still solid. I’m selling them on craigslist because I switched to a standing desk, because I don’t want to sit to long. The chair vinyl needs a small sewing job and desk can be spray panted and it will be solid and new again. I used scrap wood to build a shelter for a woodworking log i’m drying out. My new desk and chair are used. I think the problem with our waste is we live in a instant gratification society, so we don’t have the patients or time to find a new home for there old stuff and don’t want to take the time to look for used stuff. selling and giving away and finding used things can save you money and help the environment at the same time. My standing desk and chair new probably would have been 180 dollars, but instead I spent 110 dollars. Those small savings can add up quickly. So A combination of to many disposable products and not enough time is what creates so much waste.

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