How Much Can You Make Garbage-Picking in Suburbia?

Maybe you’re above trash-picking, but the guy who drives around my neighborhood on trash night isn’t.  Going back a few months, I remember a guy pulling up and picking up some old baby stuff we were tossing.  We usually donate or try to sell a few things on Craigslist, but this stuff was really bottom of the barrel – old toys that were passed on to us to begin with, old plastic games missing pieces, an old crib that I half ripped apart to get it out of the baby’s room, etc.  Well, as I was in my garage, a pickup truck pulled up started packing the stuff up into the back.  He noticed me in the garage and waved and smiled.  I didn’t mind, I was glad it was being recycled really, instead of ending up in a landfill.  I remember the distinct noise his junky old truck made, as it reminded me of the trucks my dad used to drive us around in growing up.

Well, fast forward to tonight and as I was walking the dog, same loud old junky truck pulled up and was sitting outside my neighbor’s house for a while.  I was halfway up the block and was wondering why a truck was sitting outside my house for that long and then realized what he was up to.  The guy was loading up some stuff my neighbor threw out.  As I got closer, I could see what he was actually picking up.  I guess my neighbor did some remodeling and the guy was snagging an old door.  And of course, that turned into one of those life events that was destined to be a blog post.  This got me thinking about a few things:

Continue Reading About Making Money Trash-Picking and the whole sub-culture I discovered online.

11 thoughts on “How Much Can You Make Garbage-Picking in Suburbia?”

  1. At my work, our dumpsters are accessible to the public and are concealed in a way that makes catching illegal dumpers difficult but I don’t mind. I pulled a valuable Danish chair made from solid rosewood out of the dumpster on Monday. I’m keeping it for myself. I pulled three very nice surveyors transits out of there two years ago. Made $2100 dollars. Early this year I found three taxidermy mounts of birds that brought in $200. A friend found a case of brand new, unopened K&N air filters and sold them on Craigslist for $40 each. This is just one dumpster! Imagine hitting dozens in a day?


    The chair I found looks nearly identical to these and has black leather upholstery and two horizontal slats on the back instead of three. It is nearly perfect.

  2. Darwin, I just saw a guy commented on your site about leaves. Where I live, the rich do-gooder liberals pay extra money for giant sized brown paper bags to bag up their leaves. Whether killing a tree to make a recyclable bag is better than using a plastic bag I’m not sure. I usually snag four or five bags from these yards each year to add into my compost and mulch winter crops. I just try to avoid yards with black walnut trees near by. I even recycle the bag into the compost pile.

  3. $2100?! That is astounding. Awesome! At my biz, they don’t allow access to trash due to medical waste piece but also to deter employees from “discarding” something and then snagging it later I suppose.

    I love the irony about the leaves. Good ole political driver/unintended consequences.

  4. Go by university housing at the end of the school year. Students toss away everything. ( I imagine because they have no way to get it home) lamps, computer desks and chairs, everything they can’t fit in the trunks of their cars ends up in the alleys and dumpsters. Not going to be high value stuff but if you have an incoming student you can find enough to furnish their dorm or apartment !

    When I lived in San Francisco you never had to go to the dump. If you put something out on the street someone would take it. I used to work for HIllhaven, the nursing home chain , and mattresses had to be changed periodically. There was an $8/mattress disposal fee to take them to the dump and I had hundreds of them to get rid of. Instead of renting a truck and having maintenance take them to the dump I found we could just ‘salt’ the street with a few at a time and scavangers would take them.They were vinyl clad hospital mattresses so they weren’t gross or anything and I bet half the apartments in the Polk Gulch and Tenderloin were furnished with my discarded mattresses!

  5. Ironically, last night after I had already done this post, I was watching a CBS Sunday Morning I DVRd (great show) and it was all about food. It showed routine white collar dumpster divers in NYC and elsewhere and how perfect the food was they were finding outside grocery stores and restaurants. In once case, on the fly, she shows the camera how there are perfectly good, fresh loaves of bread, in one case – it was still hot! Still hot and already thrown out for trash. I was amazed to hear 40% of all food produced in America is tossed. That is crazy. So, there are certainly some free, usable and valuable items to be had!

  6. I worked briefly as a repair dude for an apartment complex; dumpster dive every month one mans trash is another man’s treasure. I don’t recall making any money though it was just stuff usually better than what I had so it was just a trade up.

    Maybe someone could hook up any garbage pickers they know and send them down to Amytiville, Long Island sounds like this old man can use some help. City is out of money to continue clean up and won’t extend themselves further because they fear no reimbursement from big sis. Why do we pay taxes?

  7. Why do we pay taxes? -todd

    So government can pay those who invest in treasuries would be my guess that and creating a war machine that a superpower requires.

  8. A guy I know put an old fridge out front of his house with a sign on it – working, free to good home. t was there for about a week, with no takers. He then put a sign on it – Fridge, $100. It was gone within the hour. No one paid him of course.

  9. Well fuck…

    I volunteered once to go to each of the 11 transfer stations( dumpster parks) in the Fairbanks- North Star Borough to hang a sign on the entrance advising not to dump live animals in the dumpsters- a project of the Fairbanks Animal Shelter.

    It was a fun day.

    I walked by one dumpster with a Black and Decker weedeater laying on top only to turn around and look at some grinning guy revving the shit out out of it after one pull.

    I do miss Alaska.

  10. Those FNSB transfer stations are interesting. Folks in city limits get trash pickup service-outside city limits, we haul our own trash to the dumpsters at the transfer stations. They also have a “recycle” area for stuff dumpers deem re-usable (in the eye of the dumper, obviously). Some stations have virtually continuous “pickers”-they essentially live there during the day, headquartered at the recycle platform, but making rounds throughout the day. These sites rarely have anything I’m interested in except occasionally building material-I have scored doors and windows, and miscellaneous lumber. Most of the regular pickers don’t have trucks to haul off large items. The redneck neighborhoods yield salvageable car parts and industrial scrap. The “nice” residential neighborhoods have home construction scrap, and not much else worth having, IMO. They also have more “pickers”, interestingly enough. In any case, dumping live animals is pretty cold-blooded and frowned on.


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