May 132011

As the saying goes… one man’s trash is another man’s treasure but I wonder if this was intended for literal translation. I wonder if whoever phrased this idiom expected for us to one day look out our window to the sight of some stranger sorting through what we put by the curb to be taken by the garbage collector.

This week was big garbage pick-up week for my neighbourhood as I’m sure it was for a lot of communities in my area and maybe even yours. This encourages households to Spring clean and rid themselves of unneeded big items deemed unusable but as we drag said items down to the roadside we ponder who might drive by to take it away – before the city worker does.

And I’ve been wondering why there’s always such a negative connotation and non-interest in applying to collect garbage on a regular basis. Isn’t it more hygienic to wear the uniform, more worthwhile to be paid and more reputable to simply throw the bags in the back of the truck than to rummage it?

I agree that some people are wasteful and throw away perfectly good items they simply didn’t know what else to do with but after it’s used, left to collect dust, then dragged through the dirt and rained on I don’t understand the allure of any item.

But I’ve been wrong before. I’m sure some people have picked up some amazing items and maybe even re-sold them for a small fortune. Myself, I’d rather spend the night working to be paid or working on finding my internal treasures than driving from neighbourhood to town to slowly scout the best places to stop.

How many have you found a treasure left roadside? Do you scour the newspaper to schedule your Spring adventures? How do you feel about watching others take your items away? Do you watch as they rummage through your belongings? Feel a pang of regret if they load something into their car? Feel a pang of regret if they don’t?

I often wonder how many years it takes for these same items to hit roadside in some other part of town.

Thanks for reading,

Sarah Butland

  7 Responses to “Garbage Hunters”

  1. I enjoyed reading your take on this Sarah. I always feel a certain sadness when I see people rummage through my (or any) garbage. I see this as sad because I know there are people out there who have so much less than we do – perhaps a homeless person finds a ‘treasure’ – an old mattress to sleep on. They also do not have to be homeless. They may just need that extra mattress for a little one to sleep on – or for an old chair to add to their kitchen ‘set’. I like to think that whatever I throw out will be of some use to someone else rather than just end up in the landfill. Of course, I know some people pickk up stuff just to have it out in a yard sale and make a few extra $$ – but isn’t that also a bit sad – they they need to scour other people’s trash to find items they can sell to make a few extra bucks in order to perhaps pay for next month’s rent?
    I just try to not judge those who pick through the garbage and I wish them well and say a small prayer that their lives will go well in the future.

    • Very interesting and thought provoking. I do often wonder the same thing but some are driving around in pretty decent cars. I think this would make an excellent people watching and then writing exercise – The Lives of the Garbage Hunters. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your thoughts, Louise!

  2. Well, I’ve never done as you say above, but I have gone through a dumpster or two when I saw something perfectly fine just tossed away. In Fairbanks their dumps are such that half the countryside has a place to put their throw-away specifically so that someone else can come along and take them home if they want. Furniture they can’t take when they move, dishes, pots and pans, even electronics like TVs and such, not to mention clothes. They either can’t fix it or someone gave them something new or mostly, they’re moving and don’t have time for a garage sale. Both my kids have furnished their homes that way, and have returned the favor in their turn. I think it’s great. But going through someone’s garbage bags in front of their houses? Well that’s just gross.

  3. “….working on finding my internal treasures” Lovely turn of phrase.

    I love spring cleaning and being rid of all unnecessary stuff. So I have not rummaged through garbage , or picked something off the curbside and I am not one for yard sales, either 😛 Then again, I don’t collect stuff.
    And I think you if collect things you’d be more likely to seek and find 😀

  4. Depending on what it is, I have to say that garbage picking/dumpster diving can sometimes result in something useful. Case in point: I rent and other tenants are continually moving in/out of the property. Rather toss everything into the trash, they just set the item next to the dumpster. I’ve found some slightly used items while taking out the trash such as kitchen stools, patio furniture and slightly used (for the most part clean) cushions. OTOH, I would never take a couch or mattress since there is no way to know whether it’s infested with bed bugs/fleas.

    Further, there is a small army on non-residents that dive in the dumpster every day here in search of recyclables. Before 80 million Americans were either under or unemployed, I rarely saw anyone scouring for recyclables for the extra cash. Meh, it’s more hassle than what it’s worth given that gas is $4.15/gallon & climbing every day. You’d have to bring in a thousand pounds of recyclables to make up what you spent in gas driving around looking for the stuff.

  5. When I was a single mother and had to pay a mortgage, car insurance etc and provide a home for my children. Heavy garbage used to be where I could find that not too beaten up dresser or stool or kitchen table and paint it again or maybe just replace the bottom of a dresser drawer a fresh coat of paint. That was often given as well or bought as a reject, of a color I could live with for a few dollars and Presto a new dresser. A few years ago I saw an elderly lady put new flower pots at her curbside. While she watched me drive by she pointed at them saying they are new would you like them and I took them I still plant flowers in them in the summer and think of her and her lovely smile. I also saw a wooden headboard and I brought it home to make flower boxes out of it.I just hate seeing great wood pieces get thrown out when they can be recycled into something else.
    My grandson wanted a guitar one year and I saw a man place a guitar lovingly on top of everything he had put at the curb. I though maybe he had lost his son and was having a hard time to part with it. I stopped and picked it up he waved to me and smiled when he saw my grandson about 9 in the back seat. Who kept saying, Nan can you believe it a new guitar in the garbage! That man walked into his house a lot happier knowing that that guitar was so very appreciated.
    On another note my husband refuses to put stuff at the curb where we now live because we had thrown our old BBQ and a man came and took it all apart and left us the mess to pick up. We had a few people do this with a few items, instead of taking the item home they leave you with a worse mess. So we just bring our stuff to the dump that we know is beyond anyone’s use and the stuff I think is still in good shape I bring to the church hall they have in town for the poor.They sell items for 25 and 50 cents usually. And I feel better about that then putting it at the curb to get soiled or wet.
    I enjoyed your post Sarah keep em coming! 🙂

  6. I’ve never been one to pick up random items people are throwing away. But apparently there are a few people in my neighborhood who always take “trash” that’s been left out. A few weeks ago I was putting out some broken chairs & when I went back in to grab the last chair to put out, the ones I had put earlier had already been snatched up. It’s amazing how quickly those who collect such “treasures” grab them up lol.

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>