Saturday, June 23, 2007

on Dumpster Diving

So, Dumpster diving has been in the news a bit recently, mostly due to this NYT expose on Dumpster diving and freegan culture.

This reminded me of an idea I had a while ago for a blog post that was never actually written - so here it is:

During the planning and early discussion phase of this trip (i.e. last summer), we managed to generate a large portion of the financing for our voyage through Dumpster Diving.

In Madison, every August 15th is called "moving day" because of the very large number of annual (student) leases that expire. On August 15, a large number of people move in and out of apartments. As a result, the streets fill with trash and Dumpster Divers looking for good junk.

Madison (like most Midwestern cities) has a disproportionately large number of propane and charcoal grills - many of which find themselves homeless around August 15 or so. We drove around in my pickup truck, grabbed grills of the street, fixed them up with new hardware and paint as necessary, and sold them for a profit. I think we sold somewhere in the range of 6-7 propane grills and 3-4 charcoal grills, investing about $50-$60 total in paint and hardware, and earning about $50-$75 per grill.

It was a lot of fun-repairing grills appeals to my engineering sensibilities, and I liked diverting a significant chunk of metal and plastic from the landfill. On one (sadly unsalvageable) grill, I even found a mostly full tank of propane (worth ~$40)! Had that tank gone to the landfill, it could have caused damage to the environment, landfill equipment, and may have endangered the safety of sanitation workers!

Some interesting reading:
"On Dumpster Diving" by Lars Eighner
I read this for my English 101 class - a great story discussing the mechanics of Dumpster Diving, possibly one of the progenitors of the Freegan movement. Highly recommended reading - will change how you view waste.

Dumpster Diving Wikipedia Article
Is there anything Wikipedia doesn't know? This is article's funnily dry approach to Dumpster Diving has a lot of information, and even a few good links at the bottom.

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