The Roundup -

Dumpster Diving Popular Recreational Pursuit


My husband rescued this chest of drawers for his shop. Somewhat the worse for wear when he brought it home, it still is functional, cost him pennies to repair, and will suit his purposes in the shop.

Recreation (which means 'play' or 'amusement' according to Webster) takes many forms and brings to mind a huge variety of activities. Some people recreate by exerting themselves through walking or biking, others enjoy reading or reclining on the bank of a pond watching fish steal bait from their line, while yet others like to take excursions in motorized vehicles, even if that little jaunt only means going three quarters of a mile to the county dump.

The old adage 'one man's trash is another man's treasure' certainly holds true when it comes to the community dump, particularly when that site has well-organized and maintained bins and cubicles that allow people to separate their discards into many different categories. This makes it easy for others to scavenge through these unwanted articles and find a useful item or two or twenty.

Our swap shop, as I have come to call the Madison County dump located just on the other side of Nevada City (about three quarters of a mile from our house), attracts adults of all ages. It seems a person heads to the dump with a load of unwanted items and returns from his trip with nearly as many assorted odds and ends as he had when he left home.

Although people engage in dumpster diving all across the country, the landfills in Madison County make this recreational pursuit easy and (to some people) a lot of fun. When a person arrives at a local trash exchange, he finds a large dumpster for actual garbage, a bin for papers, another for cardboard, yet another for tin cans and plastic, and a separate container for appliances and metal products. County officials have also left a large open space and put in a cement wall that allows people to prominently display items that they no longer want, but that they feel will work for someone else. I've even seen notes on discards telling a potential new owner that yes, this item still works, help yourself.

Locals, including my husband, rummage freely through the discards and will make unnecessary trips to the dump just to check for potential treasures. I have never brought anything home with me when I make a dump run, although I have seen such items as unopened bottles of wine set out for someone to take, a large screen TV with a note on it "works great, I just bought a new one and don't need this," and Christmas tree ornaments and decorations left on the cement wall for anyone who wants to take them.

My husband goes to the dump three times a week, or every chance he gets. He'll collect a few small limbs from a tree, a dozen nails, and several tin cans and figure he needs to make a dump run. Unlike me, he DOES bring home an assortment of articles, some of which I understand why he dragged them home and others of which he ought to have left in the trash. However, he considers what he brings home terrific finds; I figure he goes to the landfill not to dump trash, but to snoop around and see what sort of goodie he can bring back to the house with him. As he pointed out to me when I groused about him bringing more home than he had in the truck when he left, he merely said, "If it doesn't work, I can always return it to the store." I guess he has a valid point.

When I think about what he has brought home, he did save us some money. He salvaged enough sheet rock to finish a project in the house, he's collected an assortment of lumber and plywood that he can always use for various ongoing projects, he found a chest of drawers at the dump that needed some repair but that will work wonderfully in his shop, and he brought home a book case he thought I might like. He has a chair in the shop courtesy of the landfill, and he has a chair he uses at his computer desk that needed a little repair work but that now works beautifully and looks nice as well.

Rod brought this shelving unit back from the dump, put it back together, and it now sits in the second bedroom . It cost us nothing, and Rod enjoyed doing the repairs to make it functional.

My husband isn't the only one who looks for treasures at the dump. The entire town of Virginia City gets in on the community exchange. Rod has met a man leaving the dump riding a lawn mower that has a cart attached, and on the cart sits three fake philodendrons. The man explained to Rod that he couldn't let such nice plants go to waste, that his wife would love them and had found a good spot for them to sit. Rod has seen two little older ladies come in, poke through the offerings, and carry away several items they thought would serve them well. We also talked to a man who rescued an entire Christmas tree complete with lights and ornaments.

Rod has seen a huge multitude of assorted discards disappear from one day to the next. We have added our own rubbish to the cement wall, with our personal notes attesting to the fact that the trash (to us) still functions quite well. Our throwaways have become someone else's treasure. Regifting works well and preserves resources, and recycling does the same and saves neighbors a lot of money.

I used to laugh at dumpster divers when I was young and foolish. Now that I am old and foolish, I no longer laugh. I can see the value in recycling in every way available to us, whether it be through a second hand store or though the county dump, it amounts to the same thing. What I can no longer use, I gift to you, and hope that my discard can serve you well.


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