Introduction: Dumpster Diving for Fun and Profit! (mostly Fun Though)
Third Prize in the
On a Budget Contest
I was writing this instructable when my brother mentioned the budget contest, so i am entering it. Please vote for me!
So, my brother is a stay at home dad, and I am underpaid. It's kind of hard to make cool stuff, when you can't afford raw materials. My brother decided to try dumpster diving as a way to get materials for projects. He brought me along for company, and as a pack animal.
Step 1: Tools
1. A vehicle, preferably with a lot of cargo space.
2. A tarp to cover interior spaces of the car (not necessary for trucks)
3. Tasty beverages, because this is thirsty work. Bring enough for 4-5 hours.
4. "Play clothes", you know, torn jeans and hole filled shirts.
5. Brother and/or friend to help out
6. Magnet on a stick. Like a neodymium magnet superglued to a broomstick.
7. Milk crates, buckets or tupper bins (for stepping stool and/or storing small bits)
I tied to convince my sister in law to let us bring my 8 month old nephew, at first. She said no when I told her we were gonna put him in a dumpster and keep whatever he grabbed first. She is STILL not amused by this joke. Your results may vary. Let me know in the comments!
Step 2: Supplies
Breakfast sandwiches (fuel for you)
Gasoline (fuel for the car)
Gloves latex AND work gloves (some stuff is just dirty, some stuff is wet and dirty)
Step 3: Assembly
1. Add gas to car's gas tank.(Not pictured)
2. Apply tarp to cargo area if required
3. Apply breakfast sandwiches ( or chocolate croissants) to face holes.
4. Apply gloves to hands.
Step 4: Decide Where to Go Diving.
I grew up in a neighborhood where there were a lot of "industrial condo" buildings. As such, we only had to drive a few minutes to get to some prime picking locations. Depending on where you live, more or less driving may be required. You want a lot of warehouses, manufacturing facilities, and industrial supply companies.
Step 5: Procedure
1. Check to see if anyone is working. If they are, ask permission to poke around in the trash. If they say no, move on. There are a couple reasons to do this. One is that people won't call the cops on you if they know what's going on, as opposed to seeing a bunch of people in ratty clothes tearing through their trash. Another is that if you are polite and explain that you are looking for scrap wood or reusable trash, a lot of people will let you pick through their actual scrap bins, not just trash.
2. If you receive permission or no one is around to say no, it's time to approach the dumpster. This is the point where you need to check for lock bars or chains. If the dumpster is locked, just walk away. If there are bad smells or a lot of fluids leaking out of the dumpster, you need to decide if the risk is worth the reward. Luckily, this is a very rare occurrence for us.
3. Flip open the lid and examine the visible trash. if there is nothing in the dumpster, move on. If there is stuff in there, it is time to get dirty! When I first started to dive, we would look into a dumpster and if here wasn't great stuff right on top, we would just move on. After a few dumpsters with a bag of trash sitting on a pallet, or a TON of cabinet grade plywood scraps buried in sawdust, we learned to dig deeper.
One day, we found the remnants of an office where the previous occupant l left behind two brand new car detail kits and a load of office supplies. Another day we found a bunch of marble scraps outside a counter top manufacturer. A little work on the wet saw, and yours truly will be the owner of a marble cutting board.
4. Remove whatever you intend to keep room the dumpster. Wood, office supplies, pallets, etc., and place them in the cargo area.
5. Clean up the mess you just made. Pulling things out of a dumpster is dirty. Things are wrapped in plastic, covered in sawdust and other trash. Some of the trash gets dragged out of the dumpster along with the treasure you are claiming. Put it back in. Leave a mess and people will start locking the dumpster to prevent you from making a mess again. Obviously sawdust is a problem unless you bring a broom and dustpan, but take a little care while removing that piece of mahogany, and MOST of the sawdust stays in the can.
Step 6: Oh, the Places You'll Go!
As I've stated, I grew up next to a couple of big industrial condo complexes that I pick over, but if you aren't lucky enough to have one of those close by, look for the following:
Sign makers: good for vinyl scraps, large cardboard tubes, and big rolls of wax paper that has been peeled off of the vinyl.
Cabinet makers: wood scraps and if you can find a use for it, sawdust a-plenty.
Rental offices: not always a great target, check at the beginning and end of the month when old tenants are leaving a lease. aside from some office supplies, you may be able to score some desks or chairs.
Most metal fabrication places have actual scrap dealers come collect scrap for cash, so try to make nice with the owner and see if you can get a few things before the scrap guy shows up. Don't be greedy, though. Metal scrap dealing is a legit business, and you don't want to steal someone livelihood.
Also, nothing says you can't ask the scrap guy to buy stuff. He might part with a few pieces of bar stock for 5 bucks that would cost you 3 times as much new. I asked the scrap guy who I work with to keep an eye out for an anvil for me. I will need one for my new forge.
We actually found a place or two that encourage you to come get scraps, as it saves them money on trash removal.
Step 7: The Goods
Here is a gallery of some of the stuff we have gathered in about 6 or so trips. We even found a kitchen sink, so clearly the sky is the limit!
Step 8: Soooo...What Do You Do With a Pile of Scraps?
Here is a little project I made, just a standard old fashioned toolbox, made out of scrap we found. Sorry, no instructable, I just wanted something to carry my stuff in, so I smashed this together.
well, let me know what you think. Are there some other things we should be looking for? Did I miss something you think is crucial? Please Let me know in the comments. Also, what's your favorite dumpster find?
We have a be nice policy.
Please be positive and constructive.