Mining for Suburban Gold




About: I think my interests tell a lot about me, I'm a multimedia artist which means I work in whatever medium grabs my attention, paint on canvas is very relaxing and acrylic paint can be mixed with paper to make ...

OK, it's not really GOLD but it's easier to find and can put some good money in your pocket! More often called derogatory names like trash picking or dumpster diving it is in actuality an amazing resource for many types of materials that would otherwise end up in a landfill somewhere

Step 1: How to Get Started

Depending on where you are there are many methods to collect your suburban gold.

 You can walk and pull a wagon

 ride a bike and pull a trailer

 Use your car
 use a truck

 you may want to have gloves and a couple of good flashlights, perhaps some rope or bungee cords

Step 2: Have a Place to Sell Your Gold

Depending on what material you find there are several ways to convert your treasures into cash.
Aluminum cans currently bring 40cents a pound  at our local scrap yard, a couple of large plastic trash bags filled with crushed cans can bring you $15-20.00 !
 Scrap steel is currently 15cents a pound, I can get between $60-250.00 worth in my small truck.

Consignment shops and second hand stores are another way to turn your treasures into gold. You don't get as much selling it outright but it can add up quickly. People throw away some amazing stuff ! Barely used large children toys are a quick sell to consignment stores or second hand shops, quite often you don't even have to clean them up, carseats, beds, chairs, vacuum cleaners, bags of clothes, the possibilities are endless when your suburban gold mining !

 Flea markets are a great place to sell your finds, prices for a space will vary from flea market to flea market and areas of the country. My local flea market charges $20 a day for a 10x20foot space, this past saturday I got 2 and sold almost $300 in 6hours then almost doubled that on sunday!  The pics are just a small part of what I've found over the past 2 weeks

 Craigslist. OMG what a FANTASTIC site! Not only can you find people giving stuff away free that you can sell or scrap its also a great place to advertise some of your better finds.

Step 3: It Takes Some Effort

I usually spend 3-4 hours a night, 3 nights a week slowly cruising through my favorite hunting areas on their trash night, you can usually find the schedule online or call your local trash hauling company (just don't tell them WHY your asking!) Some nights I may need to unload a couple of times but I gather just about everything from old grills to baby strollers. It takes some experience to know what bags may have treasure (ranging from clothes to mom cleaned out the room and threw away all the toys)

of course whenever I'm out I'm checking curbs and dumpsters as well, I recently saw workmen carrying 4 sheets of 1/2",4x8' oak veneered plywood to a dumpster at a home remodel site and asked if they could put it in my truck instead. I put it on craigslist and within an hour sold it for $

Then a couple of hours each day sorting what I brought home, some things end up back on the trash but not often.
I fill gallon size ziptop bags with miscilanious small toys and sell them for $2.00 a bag.
Large objects like tables and chairs or dressers usually go on Craigslist or go to the 2nd hand stores but some of the nicer items I sell online or take to the flea market.

Metal needs to be sorted into categories my local scrap yard will take, light steel, steel, cast iron, electric motors, brass etc and you need a place to store it until you have enough to make it pay. Of course they will take a mixed load but it seems easier to me to sort it at home, and the scrap yard will appreciate not having to weigh a 1/4lb of copper, a 1/2lb of aluminum, 10lbs of cast etc. You can scrap washers and dryers as is but my truck will hold maybe 6 and thats barely worth my time and the aggravation of loading them, they can be ripped apart quickly and stored until you have enough to make it worth loading and driving to the yard, plus the motors are worth more by themselves. Small pieces of copper or brass are also best saved until you have several pounds. Car batteries are another, worth $, some types even more, a lot of yards will give you a better price if you have multiple  batteries.

 Some times I find huge bags of hangers in dumpsters, second hand stores and consignment stores ALWAYS need hangers! You can sell them the bag just the way you found it or sort the hangers into shirt and pant/skirt style. I have no trouble getting $15-20.00 for a large garbage bag of pant/skirt hangers, shirt hangers bring maybe $10 a bag

 Be willing to make a deal. If your store owner is hemming and hawing over the price, sweeten the deal ! Either reduce the price (you don't really want to keep hauling it around right) or throw something else in the deal it's not like it cost you much!

Step 4: Is It Worth It?

Is it worth it ? Well, the computer and flat screen I'm using now came from the curb, I have decent tv's in every room, more dvds and games than I'll ever watch, my grandkids have more toys than they know what to do with, a $150.00 set of pots and pans in an UNOPENED box recently made a great house warming gift, my possibilium pile is always changing. I don't keep a close watch on the hours I spend but its usually less than 30 a week and I can put $4-700.00 cash in my pocket a week PLUS I'm keeping unknown yardage out of the landfill... so it's worth it to me



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    14 Discussions


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry, I don't understand your comment. Curb mining augments any other kind of income

    Here in upstate Ny, that is illegal. Did you know that the salvation army stores throw out all merchandise not sold after a short period of time. They don't send it another store or anything. Right in the dumpster. There was a article last month were they arrested a guy on 5 or 6 different charges because he went dumpster diving. Just my thought, I would not want to make headlines for stealing trash.


    1 reply

    You're right, actually jumping into dumpsters (or pulling stuff out of them) can be illegal in many areas, usually they get you for trespassing but they can also get you for theft ( the trash removal company owns what ever trash is in the dumpster) many places lock the dumpsters so you can't get in them. The few dumpsters I do hit I have permission to for or they are in apartment complexes who don't care (when in doubt ASK)

    I primarily focus on curb pickings but be sure to NEVER go in a city/county provided recycling bin, they'll really get you for that !

    Covert Koala

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great Instructable, I never thought of using consignment shops. Have you ever run into another miner working your area? There are at least 3 other miners just in my part of town.

    2 replies
    l8niteCovert Koala

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    definitely there are lots of others out searching the same areas, I look at it in 2 ways, 1st not all are looking for the same things, many are just looking for scrap metal. 2nd there is no schedule for when people take out their trash on trash night so just because I see another miner come out of a neighborhood I don't let it stop me from entering although I may move to a different area and come back later. Also I live in a large metropolitan area and each night there is a huge area to cover so even with a lot of others doing the same thing its not to bad.

    My truck is recognizable and people know I'm out there, 2 weeks ago a guy flagged me down and gave me a used but like new pwr whls jeep and said he had been watching for me, last night I got flagged down and the guy said his kids love my truck and he gave me a working weed eater, an edger and a gas leaf blower ( he had bought one of the multi yard tools) and a lady waved me down to get a dresser from her garage.

     Consignment and 2nd hand shops don't pay alot but it's often easier than trying to sell something yourself and it pays for gas money. I have probably a dozen stores I hit regularly, if one doesn't want something one of the others usually will and after a while you learn what different stores will consider.


    @l8nite Do you ever sell any of the metal scrap online? Specifically the brass and copper? I am having some trouble sourcing (locally) any brass and copper for my projects.. Also where I am living now they don't have "Big Trash Day" like I had before, so stuff is hard to find. Buying from Goodwill and other small antique/junk shops is okay,but doesn't often yield a good find, and they tend to be a bit expensive, if one is just collecting odds and ends for various projects...

    2 replies

    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not sure what you mean but I'd be willing to sell online if the price was right but then you have to add in shipping costs so it's probably not cost effective. Brass and copper are also difficult to find and since I don't just focus on metal scrap I go out later than the other scrappers, which means it takes me a while to gather enough to make even a small bucket full. Talk to some plumbers and or HVAC people, most that I know have several buckets of scrap copper and brass, just offer them a little better than going scrap prices.


    Reply 6 years ago on Introduction

    Thank you, and you are right about shipping. It's the main reason I am hesitant to by metal scrap,parts, and stock online. I will keep an eye out locally, and thanks for the tip about asking plumbers and AC... I wouldn't have thought of that.


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I do that too from time to time in a "oocasional" non professional way.
    I got some computer that ended up un school classrooms and many other things.


    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I had to laugh at "non professional" but I've been doing it for probably 30 years to one degree or another so I guess I AM a professional trash miner ! Thank you for commenting and keep watching those curbs !


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Thinking more seriously about it, I realized that this attitude somehow b elongs to my family: I remember my father and my grandfather doing it from time to time...

    I also realized that there are different ways of doing it: ie I mostly collent:

    1) what I think can be seen as "raw materials": sheets of plastic, metal, wood boards, rods, anything that can be reused later as part of a project. It is litterally FULL of it.

    2) Books : good, high quality, classics. Never the last fancy best seller. I have a copy of "Orlando Furioso" dated 1810 with rat bites on it. I'ts marvellous

    3) Tools: sometimes they need some fixing but as long as they work it's OK. That's where the pots I use for candle making come from...

    In a world where 90% of "STUFF" goes to the junkyard afther 6 months or less is hard to belive you need to buy more stuff...

    Give a look at


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    My grandfather built a 2 story, 5 bedroom,3bath home at the shore using 99.7% recycled material, of course that was back in the late 1940's or early 50's and it wasn't considered as cool to be "green" so it runs in my family as well.

    On the other side of the dumpster, my daughters sister in law doesn't even like touching her own trashcans let alone someone elses but she will ask us to be on the lookout for xyz !

    I barely scratched the surface of whats available out there, there are a lot of people out there who only mine for the scrap metal, some who will only rescue furniture to restore/redo or just focus on e-waste but there are many like myself who will gather anything that looks to have value.

    With todays economy and massive unemployment there are more people mining the same streets than ever before but there are still massive amounts of materials to be had!