Thursday, August 1, 2013

Dumpster Diving

Cardboard down at the trash station. Good dumpster diving
Now, I'm not advocating dumpster diving for others, but I admit that I do it myself. I find some great stuff at the trash transfer station that I can use, fix, or repurpose. I find it a shame that so much stuff put into those dumpsters goes to the landfill. The county is always moaning about the landfill being overfull, it costing too much money to expand or keep it open, of trash being a real super problem. But then, they won't let the public take any of it either. Sure, sure, sure, it a liability thing. But I'd be willing to sign a contract saying that I assume all responsibility for my trash picking activities. But alas, it's a no-go. Thus I become an outlaw and dumpster dive.
Just needed an easy repair. I've been using it for over a
year now. Still has plenty of life left. 

Dumpster diving saves a lot of homestead money, plus it provides a lot of resources for repurposing. Some of the stuff I pick up:
...newspapers to be used for mulch
...plastic bottles and containers to be made into fruit fly traps, fly traps,  bird chasers, pots for sprouting seeds and growing plans
...egg cartons for use in the greenhouse
...feed sacks for toting stuff like grass clippings, mulch, coconut husks, macnuts, etc
...feed sacks and old tarps for lining my grow boxes
...gallon jugs for carrying water and making drip waterers (ollas)
...cardboard to be weed blockers in the aisleways of the garden
...old coolers to be made into planters
...old or cracked buckets and totes to be made into planters
...pallets - all sorts of uses such as making grow boxes, shelving, wind blocks, firewood
...old pots and pans for chicken feeders
...old hoses for electric fencing insulators
...discarded drip irrigation lines to be reused
...hogwire fencing to be used to make trellises. If in good condition, to be used as fencing.
...pipes to be used for trellises, and asking all sorts of things
...barbed wire to be reused to protect garden perimeter from feral animals
...old clothing for rags, making garden ties, making pet beds, etc.
...partial cans of paint for painting my homemade planters
And the list could go on.

Reusing stuff from the dump gives a homestead the opportunity to have lots of physical use-items, if you wish to call them that, that it might not normally be able to afford to buy. I look round my own homestead farm and see so much that came from reusing and repurposing: the garden - plant containers, planting pots, grow boxes, spot waterers, funnels, water storage containers, trellises, bird chasers, fruit fly traps, mulch, material for garden signage, 
...on the farm - fly traps, livestock feeders, hen laying boxes, sheep shelters, tool and hardware organizing, paint, wire, sheet metal, t posts
...for the home - firewood, rags, pet beds (made from discarded clothes), pet feeding dishes, storage uses

I've picked up some gems at the dump that were ready to use or only needed minor fixing. A wheelbarrow, 55 gallon drums, rope, extension cord, circular saw, shovel, rake, mirror, double sink, floor tiles, a lamp, card table, assorted chairs, pots and pans, dishes and silverware, puzzles and toys, clothing. 
Been there.... and got the t-shirt !

What's sad in my opinion is the amount of stuff that goes to the landfill. With dumpster diving not allowed in my area, diverting stuff is difficult. Thus I see plenty, plenty, plenty of serviceable things heading for the landfill that people could be using instead. I've seen perfectly serviceable doors, windows, screens, household goods, tools ending up in the trash beyond my reach. Eeerrrggg. So I have zero sympathy for the county government who moans about running out of landfill space. 


  1. 'Back in the day' before the county set the strict regulations, people would leave items they no longer wanted or needed in an area outside the dumpster bins so others could take them if they wished.

    I still have a nice wrought iron garden chair with arms, a ceramic lamp with a beautiful tropical flower design and a wrought iron floor lamp - all 'salvaged' from the landfill and recycled.

    Not sure if you are a member of Freecycle Big Island, but you can also find a lot of reusable items that way.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with your view on dumpster diving, recycling, repurposing,etc. It is such a waste of valuable resources.

    When I lived in NC, I worked for a bank and when we did volunteer work at Habitat for Humanity we had to sign a "Hold Harmless" form. I have wondered why this is not done here because I would think it would be a great idea for those who want to dumpster dive.

    The county doesn't seem to think the landfill/trash problem is serious enough so as a result nothing gets done. No one in public office seems to want to "bite the bullet" and do the unpopular things ncecssary to get the ball rolling in truly dealing with our trash and landfill problems. They just pass the problems on to their children and grandchildren.

    Whatever recyclables I don't use at home I take to the recycle center. Whatever purchases I make are usually items with minimum packaging. I have cut in half the amount of trash I take to the landfill.

    Nice to know there are kindred spirits out there. We definitely need more likeminded people in our communities to sway popular opinion and habits.

  3. At least they let you do it! Where I live there is a place to put things for others to take, but the dumpsters themselves are "forbidden." And the perfectly good stuff that gets thrown into them! It's heartbreaking.

  4. I so agree. We try to reuse as much as possible, generate as little for the landfill as possible. Repurpose whenever we can. I love the ideas for things to use around the farm. When do you find the time to hunt for these things?