Scavenge Free Electronics, Food, and Help the Environment




Introduction: Scavenge Free Electronics, Food, and Help the Environment

Ok, so you're short on money, and you need free stuff, or maybe you just want to get some free electronics equipment and food.

So we're going to show you how to scavenge free stuff!

With a little practice, scavenging and recycling waste can become lifelong habits. It's truly amazing how much money you can save. You don't need to do everything we mention (and we've just scratched the surface of what's possible when truly desperate), but if you've been eating instant ramen for as long as you can remember and would kinda like to watch TV someplace more private than the bar down the street, this one's for you.

In fact, if you'd like to get free equipment and lower your cost of living, read on, McDuff!

  • And a special thanks to my collaborators!

All who collaborated - RishnaiSkunkbaitPlasmanaThermoelectricJellyWoo

Step 1: Let Your Fingers Do the Walking

Talk to your friends. Maybe someone you know has got a VCR they want to get rid of. Maybe someone just came back from vacation and will give you the casings from their disposable cameras.

I have friends who have gotten 10's of bikes from friends, accumulating 30-40 bikes, and i can borrow/get a lot of stuff from my dad's lab... - AnarchistAsian

Why bother asking strangers when the answer may be right in your Rolodex?

Step 2: Trade!

Speaking of scavenging, suppose your neighbors haven't quite hit that point in their lives where they start getting rid of cool old electronic stuff. Whatever shall you do?

What you can get:

Never fear, we can trade! People get rid of a lot of furniture. Nice furniture. We've fully furnished the house a few times with curbside finds. Believe it or not, not everything that's on the curb is tacky, and it's not all in good condition, but if you don't need furniture and it's in good shape, it can become good money!

How to get it:

and we've all heard of craigslist
In fact, if you're trading, especially if you're looking for something specific, come up with something interesting and/or valuable to trade and post an offer to trade on there.
  • "Will trade Class A 100W/channel amp for Moog Taurus II"
works if you have such an amp laying around. You don't even need to stay in the same train of thought. How about
  • "Will trade fenders and tank from '55 Pan for Class A amp"?

trading is a great way to get rid of stuff you don't need, and get stuff you do need for free!

Step 3: Cameras--disposable, Less Disposable, and What's Inside


Go to your local camera shop. A lot of them will have cameras that are too old to have parts support and are slightly broken. Folks essentially abandon them when they come in for a new camera, and the guy behind the counter really doesn't care that much about a 1973 Sears with a worn-down winder.

You can get these free or for a song. Unless they've got a screwed up lens, your camera won't come with a lens, and there might be some other little worn parts, but you can fix those... You will then have a free film SLR! (Lenses sold separately) Now, if you can find some solid lenses, you may even be able to sell them, or use them! Lenses for cameras are often worth more the actual camera!
And you can get:
  • lenses to sell/use
  • a free, fixable camera
  • neodinium magnets
  • springs
And whatever else you can find inside!


so for electronics parts from disposables so go to a film developing place, you know, the sort of place where a gum-popping ex-waitress calls you hun, takes your photos, and runs them through that gigantic machine of awesomeness that develops them.
so just ask for some used-up disposable cameras. tell them you're re-using them for a science project. and remember! they aren't for coil guns or shocking people!!!! never,EVER tell them that.

What you can do with them:
so why do this? Inside there's a high-voltage charger circuit, capacitors, leds, and other wonderous things. THAT'S WHY.
You can use those parts to:
Or whatever other electronics fun you want to use them for!

And don't attempt this unless you have experience with high voltage and electronics...
the last thing we need is another stupid teenager who thought they were badass for shocking people at school....

Step 4: Fancy Up Your Living Room!

What you can get:

I got an:
  • 8-track deck/amp,
  • two really nice 7-inch speakers
  • mid-quality amp
  • 14-inch speaker
  • five VCRs
  • 36-inch color TV
And could have (if I'd had the space) gotten an analog keyboard, all within five blocks of my house. - Rishnai
Anything you don't need, you can just sell on ebay

How to get it:

Look around on and around trash day. People get rid of all sorts of nice stuff. Tape decks that eat tapes just need a small belt fixed, VCR's, lamps, couches... People who have a larger budget don't have the attention span for that, so it ends up on the curb. That's where you come in.

Of course, some of you college students must have done this at one time or another...

Step 5: Dumpster Diving

When living on the cheap ceases to be a hobby and becomes a way of life, you have to step things up a notch. The next obvious step is dumpster diving.

What you can get:

I've gotten:
  • amplifiers
  • TVs
  • bicycles
  • lawnmowers
  • weed-eaters
  • ice-chests
  • clothes
  • books
  • furniture
  • dorm-size fridges
  • tons of lamps and clocks
I've sold literally thousands of dollars worth of this stuff. I even sold the vintage amp on ebay to a guy in France! Some items I give away to the truly needy. Other items find their way into my home and workshop where they are put to good use.

How to get it:

It goes beyond the usual "trash day" scrounging and occasionally requires that you get a little dirty. I recommend a good pair of coveralls, steel-toed boots and a good pair of gloves for this pursuit.
Personally I steer clear of dumpster food, but that's just my preference. There are other cleaner, safer places to scrounge for good surplus food, but I certainly hate to see ANY food go to waste.

One word of caution, "Be polite". There are others who dumpster dive, and I've run across a few who are quite territorial. Use your people skills, and be willling to share!


Step 6: How to Find Free Electronic Parts

Buying electronic parts may be very expensive, but I know a few tricks on how to get free electronic equipment which has lots of valuable electronic parts!

Getting free electronic stuff is easier than you thing, you just need to look around...


  • Schools - If you nicely ask your headmaster that you can have the electronic stuff they might throw out, they might give it to you...
  • Computer Repair Store - If you ask the manager nicely for blown electronic equipment, they will usually give it to you. If you get a blown DVD/CD burner, you are very lucky, you had got a laser that cost several hundred bucks! Check out this instructable if you do get a burner.
  • Skips - For those Americans that does not know, it is an english word for huge trash containers, what you would call dumpsters. And that is where I thrive, I find not only electronic stuff, but a lot of other great stuff as well. In England it is legal to collect stuff from skips, you just only need to watch out for the territorial people, you don't want to see them...
  • Trash Days- Go for a drive or walk around on your trash day, you can find a lot of great stuff as well. I had even found a still-working 400 british pounds ($800) pressure washer!

- Plasmana

CRT monitors!!!

What you can get:
They have a variety of parts inside them for example:
  • Crystals
  • Microchips
  • Capacitors
  • Resistors
  • Diodes
  • Mosfets
  • Transistors
  • Relays
  • VGA cable
  • Electromagnets
  • Potentiometers/Variable resistors
  • Fuses
  • Inductors
  • Buttons/Switches
  • Bridge Rectifiers
  • Transformers
Dont' know what any of those are? Then you probably won't need them...
Though if you are into electronics and high-voltage, they can be very useful!ahem AND FREE

How to get it:
Have a look around, If you see a CRT monitor (the one that isn't a flatscreen) be sure to pick it up. They are usually found at landfills, in dumpsters/garbage bins, outside places with lots of computers etc. They may not be as easy to find as other stuff on this site, but keep looking! They'll be well worth it!

If you wanted, you could modify it to be a oscilloscope, Use it for parts, Use the screen as a vacuum bomb (don't do this at home, not enviromentaly friendly either) and you can even make a high voltage powersupply out of the flyback transformer here's how


Step 7: Food and Drink (can You Live Without It?)

Can you live without it? it think not..


There are many ways to get free food. Besides making friends with people who have money and possibly bartering (will drum for food), here are some tried-and-true methods.

  • Bakery and restaurant waste, or other people's unclaimed (if you are the hobo type)
  • Roadkill (ewwwwwwww)
  • Hunting/trapping
  • sneaking into a business conference for the free cookies and pizza...
  • mooching at parties...
  • Picking free apples...


Spoiled fruit and veggies from the grocery store can be had if you ask the right people. Find that person at your local supermarket. Make them your friend. The unsaleable fruits and veggies they can provide you with are often some trimming and possibly thorough cooking away from being perfectly edible, safe, and delicious.

Check behind bakeries, especially. They have to get rid of a lot of bread-like goods. Why let the seagulls have it? Even better, make friends with an employee. Most of my freshman year, I survived on stale and sometimes oddly misshapen (when they had new hires) honey whole wheat, pumpernickel, and raisin breads from the local Great Harvest.

Back in the day, when they barely had a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, my dad and his siblings ate well for a whole winter on millet and steak. How, do you ask? They knew a guy who worked at a local steakhouse, who would get a shipment of steak in the morning, serve it throughout the day, then freeze whatever they had left over in case they ran out the next day. After the second day, they'd throw it out. Their contact made sure that the frozen steaks found their way over to their freezer instead of the dump. The millet was from the pet food shop.

- Rishnai

Sounds nice, huh?


most resturants, coffee shops, and grocery stores will either have drinking fountains, or be required to give you free cups of water if you ask. Some places will even just give you free soda if you drop by! A place near my friend's house does it, and we always bike over there when we're thirsty. - AnarchistAsian
oh yeah, and drinking strait out the soda fountain never hurt anyone...

If you are thirsty or in need of free calories to the point of having no shame, you can grab a cup out of the trash at McDonalds or some such, rinse it out, and get refills. It's tacky. It's not filling. It's qutie possibly unhealthy. But it's free, and one can only drink out of a garden hose for so long, y'know? Now go get some solid food.
YEAH, IF YOU'RE AT THAT POINT, GO AHEAD but only if you're at that's hoping you never are

Step 8: Free Apples

Do you ever see all of those beautiful apples ripens on apple trees in public area and want to pick them? But don't know if it okay do it or not? And just watch them fall off the tree and rot away?

Well, you can pick apples from public areas, but you need to obey the law first...
  • You can ONLY pick apples from trees if its branches are growing over or growing in public areas, like along the road, pavement (sidewalk), and areas like that. However, it is illegal to pick apples that are within somebody's property line.

Note: Some people may complain at you if you pick apples from a tree or a branch that is over the public areas, they have no right to do that. However, they DO have the right to complain at you, or call the police if you pick apples that are within their property...

Important note: This rule is used only in United Kingdom, and in most parts of USA, in some states of USA, it is illegal to pick apples from trees in public places, check with your local authorities first. Also, I don't know if you can pick apples in public areas in other countries.

For more information, check out this instructable.

- Plasmana

Step 9: Request Freebies From Walmart

Walmart has a webpage where you can get free samples. Just sign up to get free cereal and other food items and enjoy a couple meals on someone else's penny. Some of you may consider walmart as the evil giant mega-corporation store, but you may just change your mind after you get some free stuff from them. Notice i said Free.

What you can get-

Stuff like:
  • cereal
  • lotion
  • cookies
  • potato chips
  • granola bars
  • candy
  • neosporin
  • band-aides
  • soap
Mostly house-hold items, and food.

How to get it:

All you have to do is go to and enjoy free items now! From there you can get free samples, free trials, discounts, and free music. It is quick, easy and from a trusted company. Enjoy and happy sampling.

- JellyWoo

Step 10: Swag Bucks

(From my Forum Topic):

There's this great site called, and it's a search site powered by Google and Ask search engines. Every few searches, you get swag bucks which you can redeem for prizes on the site, including digital gift cards, and you can use swag bucks to buy ANYTHING on the internet, so when you sign up, you don't even have to put your real address.

You can also get swag bucks by using swag codes you find on blogs, by trading in items, and even by shopping.

Another thing you can do is get referrals, and you can get up to 100 swag bucks from each person you referred, so if they earn, you earn. My referral link is: but you don't have to use my referral of course.

Step 11: NOW PARTY LIKE IT'S 1929!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

get your friends together, get some free food, sit on free furniture, play with free electronics, and PARTY LIKE IT'S 1929!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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    13 years ago on Introduction

    I hate to break it to you but dumpster diving and collecting or finding stuff on the side of the street is actually called "Theft by Finding" and it is a chargable offence meaning you get arrested for it. So beware when you do as your committing an offence for which you can be arested for.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Actually, I asked a Policeman once, if taking something out of the trash was illegal and he said "No. If you go on their property, you could be charged with trespassing, but anything thrown away is considered abandoned."


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Well people will find out the hard way when local law enforcement ... The reason... Once something is thrown out, it becomes "Public Domain" property, that does not mean that the general public own it but the state pwns it and if you take it your setaling off the system and they do you for it. Bin diving / Dumpster diving is also an invasion of privacy, its what Identity Thieves do and if caught your just as likely to get charged with that also and that carries a prison sentence. So while your 'ible is in general terms good advice, it is prudent to point out that people could face serious charges and that they are liable for their own actions and on a finer point, you could get yourself in trouble for publishing instructions on how to and encouraging the acts. I tried looking for some US examples but they are thin on the ground, it may be a "Taboo" subject, do not know, I find plenty of examples from France, UK, Australia and Canada... If you watch programs like CSI, it will crop up from time to time as a method for the team to arrest a suspect who has victims property, etc... Not sure if its called Theft by finding in the USA as the US tends to name things differently than the rest of the world! Possibly why I can not find any examples. But the law exists, may be in the US something can be found under the "Public Domain" property & theft... I am not american so I can not conjour up the right search terms. If you find something you have a legal obligation to hand the item in to the police and if you do find something, make sure that your not seen..


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    ok, i'm not sure how illegal it is in the U.S., but thanks for the comment


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Remember, if a policeman was to see you, they could arrest you on suspicion of identity theft. When you dispose of something it becomes "public domain" material, that is standard in any country, it is why a policeman can legally collect anything you throw away if they suspect you of a crime, etc and all that Big Bro crap. Data theft is a big problem, thats why we have now had to turn ourselves in to a generation of shredders because this problem of stealing peoples refuse and identity requires some strange by laws and legislation. So you want to look at this issue from worst case scenario which is that ID theft will get you prison time.


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Having worked at a jail for the past two years, I can safely say that you are speaking from a purely paranoid point of view. Cops are too busy with assaults and crazy drivers to dink around worrying about whether you ought to be taking some discarded electronic equipment off the sidewalk. Nobody that has come into my workplace under arrest has been given charges even similar to what you describe. Okay, last year one guy was charged with "theft by receiving," which means his friend stole something (out of a store) and gave it to him (he knowingly receiving a stolen item). But never do cops bother with fringe ethics like picking up someone's garbage.
    I could see where trespassing would be an issue, if you're diving on private property. Okay, so don't trespass. It's rude and can get you jail time.
    Regarding identity theft, detectives are responsible for pursuing the majority of those cases, and they do not work from the ground up as you suggest (patrolling around to try to find dumpster divers), but rather investigate complaints brought to them by victims.
    The only thing keeping some people from dumpster diving is their own paranoia, and/or other people whose perceived calling in life is to tell you, "you can't do that." Stop listening to those people.


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    *Sigh, typical "LOCAL" american not thinking "GLOBAL" No insult intended but this seems to be an endemic problem with americans NOT thinking beyond their own borders, in most cases the state line. IN the UK the police are hot on this and WILL arrest you for "THEFT BY FINDING" and this is not a new law, it is one that has been resurrected and modernized and one that they do actively enforce. If someone throws something out in to their waste bins or puts items out on the footpath, they instantly become the property of the local authority. The cease to belong to the person throwing them out. So anyone in the UK thinking of going dumpster diving, be warned, you could not only end up with your name in the paper but grounded by your parents or older boys and girls could face a suspended sentence and big fine. The last local case saw a student hit with a £350 plus court costs. He was caught because he thought he could make a fast buck selling the items or pawning them... As for Europe, they will have similar laws. As for your final line... The only thing keeping some people from dumpster diving is their own paranoia, and/or other people whose perceived calling in life is to tell you, "you can't do that." Stop listening to those people. IS IMHO the WORST advice that you can give someone. Laws do exist and if the police do not want to deal with it thats their issue but if theyre having a slack day, your a collar to be felt. If you live in the UK, you have been warned, police look to collar people over any incident that they can as it all goes towards their monthly quotas and despite the fact that many here will see this as petty and say that the police won't do anything, sorry bud, here they will.


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    You seem to be confused.
    Wikipedia is where you tell people they can't do things. You should become an admin over there.
    Instructables (the website you're now on) is where you tell people how to go about doing things.
    Yes, it is polite to give a warning about how to avoid the possible dangers of these activities, but you've kind of gone overboard here.
    Yes, there are laws, and yes, it is important to try to stick to them when they aren't contrary to your God-given rights. So go ahead and accept the gift of garbage-treasure from your neighbors, and if that's against the law where you are, make an Instructable about how to get away with it.
    I still stand by my advice -- nobody ever accomplished anything truly great by listening to people who have some pathological habit of saying "you can't."
    you can.


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    This is something I pulled off a site: USA-Because dumpsters are usually located on private premises, dumpster diving is illegal in some parts of the United States, though the law is enforced with varying degrees of rigor. The California v. Greenwood case in the U.S. Supreme Court held that there is no common law expectation of privacy for discarded materials. Dumpster diving per se is probably legal when not specifically prohibited by state or local law.


    Reply 13 years ago on Introduction

    Not if you go ask the owner at the house,it do it all the time,and i found myself a brand new laptop,And tons of other stuff.


    6 years ago

    Majority now, the dumpster is enclosed, with a compactor, and they
    deliberately destroy (read SMASH, rendering the item inoperable) the
    items before discarding. I agree, it's appalling how much is
    discarded.. Up until they began 'Mandatory Electronics Recycling', the
    town I lived in was collecting electronics into a watertight shipping
    box, with box bins inside.. They were being sold off (???) to an
    electronics recycler who supposedly was paying them for the items..
    Unfortunately, this is what has happened with 'Gold-Miners', is they'll
    collect the items, grind them up, subject them to caustic acids &
    chemicals to dissolve the gold, then subject those to neutralizing
    chemicals to extract it.. But, the part no-one seems to understand, or
    realize, is the cost of disposing of now caustic and VERY poisonous
    chemicals also containing heavy metals. They may extract $1,000 in
    gold, but they're still left with $10,000 in toxic waste. Also,
    despite being discarded, there are still working components inside, that
    are still being needlessly destroyed. I've rebuilt computers discarded
    by others (in fact, sending this from one now.) hard drives can be
    ERASED, but some treat them as if data that has been erased, can somehow
    be miraculously reconstructed and pose a national security risk to a
    small-time company. (I've wiped plenty of hard drives, and believe me,
    It IS scary what some people leave. Social Security info, Personal data,
    Personal (Not to be shared, I.E. Nude) pictures...) But, wipe them,
    format them and the data IS removed! LCD screens, I've repaired plenty
    of laptops with the discarded screens on laptops that were scavenged for
    their hard drive, memory, and discarded the rest. LCD Intact! (though
    majority the screen is either accidentally smashed, or deliberately

     I've heard from friends that if u wait until best buy gets new models in you can get computers out of the dumpsters behind the place.  Anyone ever tried this?


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    I dunno. Seems unlikely that they'd do that and lose thousands of dollars. I would think they would sell them at a discount, or maybe to an overstock place.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I know this is an old thread comment area, but, I know it is hard to believe but the amount of merchandise they throw away is appauling. The above person was telling the truth


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    no but it might work ill try tommorow im off of school but if not at best buy try a computer only store's dumpster in my area its canton computers...also for free food i like to sign up for newsletter for places and i usally get good coupons just found one today for free doritos.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    these days major companies lock up their dumpsters at night. I worked at michaels arts and crafts and they locked them up there too! Like who is gonna want a glue stick from the trash?! My supervisor told me things like vases and home decor needs to be destroyed before putting it in the trash. There was a vase i wanted, it was hidden in the store for almost a year and since it was out of their ctatlog i couldnt have it and he smashed it. Its terribly sad businesses care that i could have gotten it for a penny instead of the $12 it wasnt worth anyway.


    Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

    Really? That's a shame. That's really bad business practice. Why throw something away when you can sell it and make up for some of the money initially invested?