How do you picture a dumpster diver? A homeless person with shopping cart in tow, collecting aluminum cans to take to the scrap metal yard? Or a Portlandia-style hipster with head lamp and rubber gloves who’s sticking it to the man by recovering perfectly good food and consumer products from commercial dumpsters? How about a computer security expert or a stay-at-home mom? Those last two may have you scratching your head, but not only are they the type of people you may find digging through trash, they’re also people that may have turned to dumpster diving as a professional endeavor.
A professional dumpster diver? Really? Wired recently profiled Austin, Texas-based Matt Malone, who, in addition to working as a computer security specialist, also pulls in a nice second income by diving the dumpsters of big box stores in the area. How much of a second income? Malone told writer Randall Sullivan that were he to make diving his full-time job, he could easily pull down $250,000 a year.
Really? Just by pulling things out of the trash, fixing them up, and selling them on eBay or Craigslist? Apparently so. It seems we’ve hit a sort of perfect storm in terms of planned obsolescence and information technology: perfectly good materials (including food) regularly get tossed to make room for newer products, and a diver can take advantage of this situation to make a decent income. In fact, Malone might describe his day job as his avocation, because he keeps it only because he enjoys the work so much – he could make more money as a dumpster diver.
Yeah, but he’s a outlier, right? No: Malone’s not the first professional dumpster diver I’ve come across. If you spend a little time on dumpster diving communities on reddit or Facebook, you’ll almost certainly come across Mom the eBayer. Chicagoan Angel not only dives for products she can sell, but makes regular videos of her trips down alleys. I don’t know what kind of income she makes, but I have been amazed at some of the perfectly good items she’s found that could go on eBay or Craigslist after just a little cleaning.
Given our rampant desire for the latest thing, the dumpster diver provides a valuable service: s/he keeps valuable items out of the landfill, and creates a supply of affordable, gently used products. Sure, a downturn in our consumption would be best for us and the environment, but until that happens, we probably need more folks willing to jump into dumpsters for a potential payday.
Do you dive for an income? Share your experiences with us…
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Thanks for stopping by, Matt…!
I have been recycling and conserving since the 60s. However, when I lived 8 years near Wash U in STL…I really learned to Dumpsta Dive. The spoiled kids attending this U. throw away the MOST amazing stuff every semester. Luckily a few got used and appreciated me monitoring their alleyways. 2 young men once walked a new Delonghi Coffee Maker out to me, instead of the trash. That was 10 years ago and it still brews me coffee each am.
I keep meaning to get out for some end of the semester diving, Diana. I’m also in St. Louis, so there are lots of opportunities…