Trash Trawling: Strange Ways to Make Money

Dumpster diving can be a great way to both make and save some money. You save money when you find things you can use and you make money when you find things you can sell. Many things that are thrown away are usable. In my time I’ve found a working treadmill, tons of toys, a dumbbell set, plenty of books, a lamp, a working vacuum cleaner, and many other things. Some of these I’ve kept for myself and others I’ve cleaned up, refurbished, and sold, either at a yard sale or through eBay/Craigslist.

“Dumpster diving” doesn’t always mean literally crawling through a dumpster, so don’t think you have to don hip waders and climb into the dumpster to benefit from the discards of others. I think the term can be applied to any sort of garbage scrounging. Maybe it should be called, “Trash Trawling.” If you find something on the curb on trash day, that’s a form of dumpster diving. If you go to the local dump and find something usable lying off to the side, that’s also a form of dumpster diving.

The best place to find usable items is a college campus near the end of the school year. Many kids don’t want to move their stuff home and can’t be bothered to sell it or recycle it, so they toss it. You can score books, computer equipment, CD’s/DVD’s, clothes in great condition, desks/chairs, refrigerators, and microwaves. The second best place to look is in office complexes. Here you can find office supplies, computer equipment, telephones, and office furniture. Other good places to look include malls/retail complexes, apartment complexes, schools, or hotels. Some people go beyond looking for objects and look for food. They trawl the dumpsters behind grocery stores and restaurants looking for food that is still good, but which has been discarded because newer stock has come in or because the “sell by” date is approaching.

When choosing which items to take, avoid anything “soft” that cannot be easily cleaned. Things like sofas, mattresses, or upholstered chairs may look like they’re in great condition, but it’s difficult to detect the presence of pests like fleas, bedbugs, or mites. Since these things can’t be easily cleaned, they’re best left behind. However, clothes can be cleaned so if they aren’t too stained or damaged, you may want to take those.

Once you’ve gathered your items, you have to decide whether to keep them for yourself or sell them. If you decide to sell them, first clean them up and make any needed repairs. Fully functioning, clean items command higher prices than damaged junk. You can sell at yard sales, through classifieds, or through online sites like eBay or Craigslist. You may also be able to use your finds to trade for something you need on a site like Freecycle. If you’ve collected metals like cans or old appliances you can take them to a metal recycler for money.

If you do decide to dumpster dive, make sure that it isn’t prohibited either by the property owner or by the municipality. You don’t want your money saving excursion to land you in jail. If trash scrounging is legal, just make sure you protect yourself and be careful. Wear gloves and protective clothing. Work in well lit conditions or carry a good light so you can see what you’re picking up and where you’re stepping. Don’t go alone. You don’t want to get stuck or hurt in a dumpster without someone there to help you out.

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3 Responses to Trash Trawling: Strange Ways to Make Money

  1. james says:

    Spot on Dumpster diving is a great way to make a little extra cash and help keep stuff out of the landfills.

    Dive on people

  2. Melanie says:

    My hubby just got a job to clean up a lot (the property is going up for sale and it looked horrible). We factored in the price of the backhoe (no way could this stuff be lifted by hand) and the price of the dump fees. While cleaning the field up, my hubby had the great idea to put all the pieces of metal on the trailer and instead of taking it to the dump, took it to a local recycler instead. So instead of paying $200 to dump the stuff, he just put $200 in the bank (that the recycler gave him) so that I can pay bills! Woohoo
    I am just tickled pink.

  3. Mary says:

    Every Spring our town has a Spring clean up week where
    everyone puts out junk by the curb for trash pick-up. So I
    and my daughter like to go look around at other peoples
    junk. We found a nice card table and chairs, an antique
    lamp, childrens hardback books, bar stools and even a
    box of over 50 nice pool ques. All these things we usually
    clean up and sell at a garage sale and made a little money,
    besides, it’s fun!!!

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