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hex11

do you go dumpster-diving?

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And if so, what cool shit have you found?

My biggest score was an old IBM ThinkPad laptop. I thought for sure it would never work, but I grabbed it anyway for the spare parts (memory, etc.) When I got it home, I hit the power button and it started booting WinXP! I had to find a power supply for it (sysadmin friend @work hooked me up), but other than that it was perfect and lasted a few years (LCD eventually died). I now use another free ThinkPad that's similar (also 8 years old, but different model) that someone gave to me when I did them a favor. It was just the guts, so I had to populate it with parts from the other laptop. So in a way, the dumpster laptop lives on...

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This isn't a Maes thread? Did he talk you into this?

No, I never have. There are few dumpsters around here and the one I could possibly go diving in is just filled with animal shit.

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I guess I'm a little bit "ghetto". I'd rather use free shit instead of buying new shit, so long as it fulfills my needs. I'm always looking for creative ways to save money. When I lost my job a couple years ago (economy go boom -> lots of layoffs), I moved into my SUV-tank after my apartment lease ended. It turns out there's a whole subculture of vehicle living out there, although many of them have fullsize vans. Living in small confined spaces really makes you prioritize and consider what possessions are critical and what's not. Well, it's basically like camping. Anyway, that was fine and dandy until summer came and the heat got unbearable, and I decided to look for better accommodations instead of cutting a ceiling vent into the roof. The real problem was that my vehicle doesn't have anough roof surface for solar panels, and I couldn't find a suitable place for a pair of golf cart style 6V batteries (I tried sketching various layouts on paper). So I eventually paid cash for a cheapass small travel trailer and moved into the cheapest trailer park in town. It's very, very ghetto here. :D

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I haven't scored much from dumpsters before. Part of the problem is right now I'm living in a place that's very suburban and mostly lacks dumpsters. There was one right next to dad's old place and when there wasn't a homeless guy living in it we would sometimes take a look. Nothing worth keeping most times. Dad recovered a broken table and we made him throw it back; he had enough tables.

Scientists and engineers are often good at this kind of thing. They're always scrounging lab equipment, weird parts and electronics from odd places. It's impressive how many things you can do on the cheap.

For my part, I have a lot of free computers and peripherals. It seems as soon as you work with computers people want to throw their junk your way. At least I've never been short of keyboards to hand out to friends. :D

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What the hell kind of dumpsters are you people finding? Normally when I think of dumpster I think of usual rotten food and plastic trash. The only garbage I had recovered were functional pens. How lucky can you be to find thrown laptops, especially if you live in a poor country?

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Dumpsters in areas full of duplexes, low-rise condos, etc. often have good stuff I find. I'm pretty sure it's for the same reason we threw some usable stuff in there when living in one of those places: you hear that truck come every few days to empty it and realize it's a dead simple way to get rid of useless things you can't be bothered to dispose of properly.

All kinds of trash goes in there: tables, TVs, computers, monitors, car wheels, baby carriages, unopened sex toys (haha, buyer's remorse I guess), beer bottles, food, clothes, etc. It can be pretty dangerous digging around in those things, but their contents are often similar to or better than the stuff people leave on the sidewalk by their houses. (If you leave broken electronics on the sidewalk the garbage man will probably leave them there.)

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Actually the laptop I found was in a plastic garbage can (clean, looked almost brand new) that was sitting next to the dumpster. It also had some framed artwork and various household odds & ends. They even left a nice portable vaccuum cleaner that I also grabbed that day. Anyway, this dumpster often had interesting stuff because people would discard things they didn't want to take with them when they moved out of that apartment complex. It was common to see various pieces of furniture, TVs, etc. all sitting besides the dumpster. In fact, when my lease ended, I dropped off a bunch of my shit there, including an office laser printer and a bunch of computer chairs and folding tables that I had gotten for free a year earlier (from an office that was trying to clear up some space).

The place I'm at now doesn't have a nice dumpster like that, and in fact it smells bad enough that I don't tend to hang around it longer than necessary. ;)

You might have better luck if you can find unlocked dumpsters behind computer stores and various retail businesses. Just make sure you don't get caught though. Another possibility is driving around suburban neighborhoods on trash pickup day, early in the morning. Sometimes people leave nice stuff out they don't want anymore.

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Do you at least clean those things before starting to use them?

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Off-topicy, but in the UK we're forbidden from throwing electrical goods such as PCs, monitors and most likely notebooks in the main bin. Not that I think anyone has ever actually been prosecuted for not adhering to this law, but still. I miss the simpler times where everything went in one bin instead of having to drive to the recycling depot or paying someone from the local council to take it to the recycling depot where such items can be "processed" (i.e, taken to a landfill along with everything else most likely).

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I've never gone dumpster diving, but I used to take the shit they threw away when I was working at Red Lobster. I nabbed myself a special edition Crown Royal bag (a good find if you're a gamer), a couple 3-ring binders, and some complimentary recipe cards that they used to give to customers. I've worked in the food industry long enough to know you won't find anything pleasant in a dumpster.

DoomUK said:

Off-topicy, but in the UK we're forbidden from throwing electrical goods such as PCs, monitors and most likely notebooks in the main bin. Not that I think anyone has ever actually been prosecuted for not adhering to this law, but still. I miss the simpler times where everything went in one bin instead of having to drive to the recycling depot or paying someone from the local council to take it to the recycling depot where such items can be "processed" (i.e, taken to a landfill along with everything else most likely).

Yeah, we have laws like that here in Washington as well. I have a fuckton of monitors I need to get rid of but don't because the disposal site is at the ass-end of the county and WAAAY out of my way no matter what I'm up to.

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DoomUK said:

...instead of having to drive to the recycling depot

Yeah, that one pisses me off. Instead of a proper coordinated rubbish collection, people end up taking individual trips in their individual cars, spewing fumes into the environment so that they can "be green" and recycle some shit that will be...

DoomUK said:

taken to a landfill along with everything else most likely.

Yup. Our local authority has, very publicly, been caught out doing just that twice.

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DoomUK said:

...paying someone from the local council to take it to the recycling depot where such items can be "processed" (i.e, taken to a landfill along with everything else most likely).


My Local Authority will take your stuff for free as long as there's no more than, I think, 8 items and some charities shops pick up stuff if it has even a vaguely resale value. Last stuff I put out for the Council were whipped off by some local guys. I watched one guy hop over my wall with a chest of 6 drawers on his shoulder!

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DoomUK said:

Off-topicy, but in the UK we're forbidden from throwing electrical goods such as PCs, monitors and most likely notebooks in the main bin. Not that I think anyone has ever actually been prosecuted for not adhering to this law, but still. I miss the simpler times where everything went in one bin instead of having to drive to the recycling depot or paying someone from the local council to take it to the recycling depot where such items can be "processed" (i.e, taken to a landfill along with everything else most likely).

I thought that kind of law was common standard, at least for the EU. Anyway, instead of worrying about old electronics and being tempted to "break the law" and throw them in the general waste disposal, why not just give them to hobbyists? Treat those guys as the proper waste disposals for your old electronics :)

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Put your stuff up on craigslist in the "free" section. It'll be gone lickety-split.

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printz said:

What the hell kind of dumpsters are you people finding? Normally when I think of dumpster I think of usual rotten food and plastic trash. The only garbage I had recovered were functional pens. How lucky can you be to find thrown laptops, especially if you live in a poor country?

When I saw this thread title, I thought it was going to be about dumpster diving for food. Yes, I have met people who do this. I have a friend who claims to, so plucking working electronics from clean trash bins doesn't seem so outrageous.

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I've never been dumpster diving, but I knew a guy who had a recycle route and found loads of shit, books mostly, but other things like blenders and stuff too. If you go dumpster diving, I suggest dive into dumpsters near stores and resale places. Wal-Mart works too.

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I never literally dumpster dived, at most dumpster-looked or dumpster-reached for something. A good reason for that is that most of the really cool stuff that might interest me is often left outside and near the dumpster (furniture, toys, old monitors, electronics, TVs etc.)

The recycling bins are much more interesting, as they are cleaner and ofter contain e.g. recent magazines (the paper one) or cool decorative bottles (the glass one). Also, people tend to leave more valuable stuff near them than near the normal trash.

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I once pulled in at a lay-by to have a rest during a long drive and just sitting there looking at me from the bin at the side of the road was a phone (ie a plug-in house phone) and a VCR. I took both and neither worked. Not surprising really.

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The only thing I ever picked up was a computer which was just outside my building, beside the dumpster. I brought in, opened it, and there was a loose wire on the motherboard power socket. I fixed it, turned it on, but there was nothing interesting in it. And the PC itself is a complete shit. There's not even AGP on it...

But eventually I'll find some use for it.

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Aliotroph? said:

Dumpsters in areas full of duplexes, low-rise condos, etc. often have good stuff I find. I'm pretty sure it's for the same reason we threw some usable stuff in there when living in one of those places: you hear that truck come every few days to empty it and realize it's a dead simple way to get rid of useless things you can't be bothered to dispose of properly.


That about sums up my experience in this area. The family on my mother's side owns a bunch of duplexes around Calgary, and whenever I'm helping them to evict tenants or to clean the suites out, I usually check out the dumpsters in the alleys.

In the last few years, the amount of functional computers that people have been carelessly tossing away is astounding. I haven't had to buy RAM in years, and I have enough of it lying around (after running through Memtest86 to see that it's not trash) that I give it away for free now. Keyboards, TVs, and monitors are other easy finds, but once in a while I've been lucky enough to find a good graphics card or a functioning set of speakers. It's also kind of sad to see that people don't wipe their hard drives before tossing the computers in the bins, as I've found a lot of banking/credit card info, along with some weird incriminating stuff that I've never bothered to act upon. I guess I shouldn't expect people to know how to irreversibly scrub the things, but it's like they don't even put any effort into deleting anything at all.

Aside from computer parts, some highlights of the stuff I've found would include university-level textbooks, brand new plumbing supplies, several Xboxes and older consoles (though a few of them needed to be cracked open so that I could solder broken pieces together), an antique accordion, a life sized stuffed 'Curious George' doll, a set of ornamental crystal bowls, an empty floor safe (with keys!), a mountain bike with missing tires, half of a Rep-Rap, a fretless bass guitar, and an oxyacetylene welding set.

There are only a few times when I've actually hopped into the bin, though, and only when it's (mostly) empty aside from the item that I want. I don't really want to wade around in a pile of filth and sharp objects. I've never been interested in aquiring furniture via the trash either, since I'm kind of minimalist in that respect, but I see a lot of tables, desks, and shelves that have tempted me.

I'm also not quite poor enough to warrant scrounging for food, but I've thought about it a few times over the years.

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I'd only dive a dumpster if it were in an unsafe elevator on Mt Washington, and filled with my favourite monsters and weapons.

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I wouldn't have been able to afford my freshman year of college without a lot of dumpster diving.

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re: title -- Technically no, but the chair I'm sitting in was a sidewalk reject. Strange, too, considering that it's actually a very nice chair. Makes me remember never to ask what sort of nasty something its previous owners did to it to justify the toss.

For the record, though, it has always has smelled just fine.

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Mithran Denizen said:

I'm also not quite poor enough to warrant scrounging for food, but I've thought about it a few times over the years.


Apparently you can get free food from grocery stores if you wait by their dumpster when they're throwing stuff out. They might even be willing to set aside stuff for you to pick up. The food is still nutritious, but not something they can sell (like apples with too many bumps, expired but not yet stale bread, etc.) I never tried this, just something I heard but it sounds plausible.

The only food item I ever snagged from (well next to) a dumpster was a case of MREs (unopened).

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Apart from houses undergoing renovation the only dumpsters around here are at the shopping centre and I'm not curious enough to investigate their contents. The local council's annual collection of stuff that doesn't go in the garbage or recycling bins and isn't green waste can turn up some interesting gear, though these days I'm doing less scavenging and more disposing.

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Xaser said:

For the record, though, it has always has smelled just fine.


The only time I regretted picking stuff from the street, was when I was a student in Italy and me and my flatmates we picked some stuff that immigrants living across the street in a large condo had discarded. At first we thought we got ourselves a spiffy "new", if a bit tasteless couch and armchairs with some fuzzy mustard-colored upholstery, but after a few days we started to get itchy...and it turned out that shit was flea(?)-infested. Back into the street they went.

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I will if I happen to go behind a computer store. Sometimes I find spare hardware. Water jugs are good to look out for, too, since they give back a $10 deposit.

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I used to live by the beach in San Diego (Ocean Beach). The tradition there is when you no longer want a piece of furniture, you put it out in the alley, and then it's fair game for anyone who wants it.

We used to keep a couch in front of our apartment for relaxing and drinking beers on. The couch usually only lasted one or two years before it started stinking because it got rained on one too many times and we'd have to go scrounge a replacement. A lot of furniture from that "era" of my life came from the alleys in Ocean Beach. I still have a set of metal shelves in the garage that someone painted with that "fleck" paint that I scrounged from the alley.

We'd also save all of our empty beer bottles (a neat trick in an area with a high homeless population), and when we went recycling, we would usually end up with enough beer money for another 12 pack of Henry Weinhard's.

If you go somewhere and you see "NO TROLLS!" spray-painted on the dumpster, you know the people there are having problems with the homeless people dumpster-diving for things to recycle (bottles, cans, metals) and not cleaning up the mess that they leave. If you've seen many homeless people, they do look like a troll sometimes.



I went out to Slab City last year, it's in Imperial County (California), east of the Salton Sea. If you've seen the film "Into the Wild", then you know what Slab City is. The residents of Slab City go around to all of the stores in the area and ask for stuff that the stores are throwing out, then hand out what they find to anyone who wants it. I got a free 20oz bottle of Diet Pepsi that was WELL past it's expiration date. Needless to say, I was looking for the caffeine buzz that morning, but didn't get one.

And yes, it is true that you can dumpster dive on stores and get food. When I was much younger, we would dive the grocery store's dumpster look for things like pastries still in their wrappers; the wrappers made us feel "safe" that the food was not contaminated by something else in the bin. We didn't always find anything though.

Like GreyGhost said, these days I'm more about trying to get rid of stuff than acquiring new stuff, my supply of computer spare parts has gone way down, and truthfully, I don't miss it now that it's gone.

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