There is an unconventional activity that more and more individuals are participating in: trash picking, which is the process of scouting reusable trash, taking the trash home with you, up-cycling the find, repurposing used items, and using them in your home.  More and more folks can be found pursuing through their neighbor’s trash on trash days, bulk pick up days, or shuffling through dumpsters behind their favorite businesses.

There are many reasons why trash picking has become more popular in the past few years. Someone might be interested in picking up trash for the following reasons:

Saving Money

Refurbishing found items can save large amounts of money. Why would you want to spend a few hundred (or more) dollars on a brand new kitchen table when you picked a really nice sold-wood table out of the trash that only needs a good sanding and some varnish? You could save yourself a large chunk of change. Just keep in mind that it takes time and energy to flip an item. Take into account the amount of time it will take to really make that found item look the way you want it to.

Environmentally Friendly

By reusing someone else’s goods, you are reducing the amount of production needed to create new products. Injustices like sweatshops and the destruction of wildlife and ecosystems that are part of the production process in many brand-new goods is unnecessary if existing products are reused or repurposed.


Scavenging for your next project is a hobby for many people. Finding something great in the trash causes a rush of excitement and can fill an individual with bursts of creativity. Some folks just really like finding something old and making it look new again; repurposing an item to make it fit their lifestyle. Plus, a do-it-yourself project that turns out flawlessly is always exciting.

On the negative side of this fun hobby, you can always expect to be stared at and glared at as you quickly pull over to rummage through someone’s trash. If it’s spread across their front yard, it’s fair game, right? Be advised that you’re probably digging through the garbage of someone who you actually know.

Where are the best places to trash pick, dumpster dive or curb surf? You’ll have to learn to keep your eyes peeled all the time. Anywhere you’re going, look for trash on your way there. Some of the best finds are found in the middle of nowhere, along a country road. Typically, nice items like chairs, sofas, tables, dressers, and lamps can be found on the curb just waiting for waste management to come and haul them away.

Find out the schedule for big item pickups for your neighborhood. If pickup is scheduled for a select day one month, be sure to peruse the neighborhood the night before. The night before trash pickup day marks the beginning of any trash-picker’s adventure. Bulk pick-up days are even more exciting. It’s all about the hunt! Cruise the streets and look for things. By car, by bike, or while on a walk; you can cover more land by car but are likely to see more up-close while biking or walking. If you spot something too big to carry while on foot or on bike, just run home, hop in the car, and go pick it up.

Apartment complexes are perfect places to score discarded items. At any given time, several people in a complex are most likely cleaning out their closets or replacing old furniture with something new. Middle-class neighborhoods in our area generate more ‘stuff’ than the folks with huge houses. This is probably because the middle-class occupants purchase middle-class items instead of high-quality, high-grade investment purchases.

Craigslist has a great ‘Free’ section. The nation’s bulletin board usually delivers when it comes to salvage-worthy steals. The ‘Free’ section is often filled with others who love trash picking. Users inform others of curbside goods left outside for the first person to come and get them. Some Craigslisters even posts photos of their free items and provide an address for easy locating purposes.

Some local storage units have a drop-off zone for unwanted, forgotten, or purposely discarded junk. You can sometimes snatch a few neat items that no one wanted or took up too much space when moving items in or out of a storage unit.

There are a few things that you should be conscious of when trash picking:
  • The cardinal rule of curb surfing, dumpster diving, and trash picking: Don’t make a mess.
  • If a dumpster is locked, there’s probably a reason.
  • Clean it: Cleaning is essential. Sanitize everything as soon as you get home. Clean out your car. Clean yourself, most importantly.
  • Paint it: A fresh coat of paint will usually always do the trick when it comes to most things that can be pulled from the trash. If you can clean it, sand it down, prime it, and paint it, it will be as good as new.
  • Pass it on: If you don’t necessarily need an item, let it be. Don’t pick it up. If it’s not something that you plan to use on a regular basis, let it sit curbside for someone else who needs it more than you do. One rule to remember? If you already have one, you don’t need another. Of course, this is only applicable to certain items. If you still think that you must have it, try to donate something from your home to make space for your newest addition.

Safe and happy trash hunting!