One person's damaged, old tech is another's payday
September 5, 2018 2:41 PM   Subscribe

It offends me how much functional (or repairable) stuff is thrown out, and I don’t blush about grabbing it now.

My daughter’s dorm fridge was on the side of the road last spring, for example. We have grabbed bikes and plastic drawer aets and all kinds of stuff.

Once we found a piece of furniture, went home for the van, couldn’t fit it in the room, and brought it back!
posted by wenestvedt at 2:48 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

My household has a bad track record with appliances. I'm replacing something or other every year it seems. Last year it was the fridge, this year it was the hood/microwave.

Something that is worthwhile, and it seems very few people do, is scavenge the remaining working parts off your dead appliance and sell them on eBay or Craigslist. With about 30 seconds of googling you can find the MSRP of a replacement part, and you would be dumbfounded to see what GE wants for parts on discontinued units. You price your piece at 25% of that and you'll almost always get some attention.

On the dead microwave the door, turntable, and control panel alone got me 80% back on the price I paid for the new one.
posted by JoeZydeco at 2:55 PM on September 5, 2018 [26 favorites]

Kicking myself for hesitating over a giant (and likely colossally heavy) Lexmark forms printer yesterday. When I turned back, it had gone.
posted by scruss at 2:58 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm the sort of person who always looks into skips on the way past. Last time I was at the dump with my dad, we came back with a couple metres of oak kitchen worktop and a big, long, chunky piece of mahogany.

We once met a guy there who would pick up any large, solid bits of wood from the dump and construct large crocodiles and similar to donate to the local preschool.

Also, my dad fixed microwaves for a while, and he says unless you're talking really high end, every microwave has the same standard components inside - the only actual quality difference is the interior coating and how fast it rusts.
posted by stillnocturnal at 2:59 PM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

Our town has "trash week", a sort of amnesty time when you can throw out pretty much everything without worry about getting in trouble with the garbageman (with some limits) -- I take the week off and my wife and I drive around, staying ahead of the garbage truck, filling the back of the pickup with anything that looks remotely still useful. My inlaws come up for it too, it's like Christmas. There's so much useful stuff that just gets chucked out, and if there aren't salvagers like us it gets scooped into big trucks and buried in the dump. Everything we find gets fixed up, cleaned up, a new coat of paint, something, then gets put out at the flea market. Rarely is anything worth big bucks, but it's better than more landfill and we have a lot of fun doing it. If we test it and it doesn't work, it goes back on the curb. We do keep some things: a Makita 12" miter saw, a band saw, the stereo receiver in the living room, lamps, a laptop that just needed a power connector: there's so much not-garbage being thrown out it's crazy.

(Our arch enemies [tongue in cheek] are the "Metal Guys". All they want is salvage metal, re-sold by the pound to scrappers. We've seen many an antique sewing machine in their trailers, a hundred pounds of cast iron beauty, to be melted down, it's a shame)
posted by AzraelBrown at 3:08 PM on September 5, 2018 [16 favorites]

My enthusiasm for curbside shopping has waned somewhat with the increase in the bedbug problem.
posted by praemunire at 3:11 PM on September 5, 2018 [21 favorites]

My problem isn't the scavenging or fixing -- I loathe the selling. Can't stand flakes, hagglers, tire kickers, all the typical time-wasting assholes that haunt Kijiji or any other sales venue. I have loads of stuff I'd rather sell, but for the incredible hassle of dealing with actually doing so.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:22 PM on September 5, 2018 [17 favorites]

I mean, I put "You pick up, no haggling, email only, no partial sale" into every listing and I will get

"Do you ever get up to Steeles out Etobicoke way?"
"$20 and I'll pick up"
"Call me or text me your number and I'll call you"
"Can we just do the bags?"

I block every single one of these fucking morons. It's unbelievable. If you can't follow simple written directions in an ad, I don't want to meet you in person, much less sell you anything.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:26 PM on September 5, 2018 [36 favorites]

Recovering hoarder counter-argument: NO, THROW OUT ALL THE JUNK, let other people get rich by digging through garbage and filling their shelves with stuff and acquiring bonus bedbugs
posted by nicebookrack at 3:33 PM on September 5, 2018 [32 favorites]

Oh, this brings back memories of salvaging hard drives from the trash that IT drones thought they had rendered inoperable but that I could quickly fix with the simple aid of a mechanical pencil.
posted by Doktor Zed at 3:48 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

My mom worked at the mall when I was a kid and once she found boxes full of cheapy little toys in the dumpster. They were mostly these little sticky ball things that looked like a fake eye, the kind of crap they stick next to the register for a quick cheap impulse buy for a nagging child. It was like a dozen of em and I'll always remember how fun and cool it was to get a random present like that because mom happened to be walking by the trash after work. I've never been dumpster diving myself, but I am comfortable rooting around trash cans more casually. I'll eat food out of the trash depending on its condition, though at work I prefer to snag it before it gets to that point, if possible, but still, some folks act like the trash is an exclusionary zone and anything that passes its threshold is anathema. Jokes on them, there's good food, cool toys, and nice tech in the trash just waiting to be discovered.

Oh yeah, the one piece of furniture I own that ever gets any attention I rescued from an apartment dumpster while taking the dog out. I cleaned it up real good and did a resin/pattern-paper collage illustration on its surface.
posted by GoblinHoney at 3:52 PM on September 5, 2018

I felt awful dropping a couple of pieces at the recycling center last year, right before we moved. I had my old Nakamichi cassette deck (that needed a belt and other work, and an old PowerComputing Mac clone that I simply couldn’t find homes for.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:54 PM on September 5, 2018

More relevant than ever, now that China is refusing many recycled materials from the USA
posted by eustatic at 4:00 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

While escaping / moving out of an extremely crappy apartment complex, I once threw away a still-almost-new, working-perfectly microwave, because the wiring, door panel, and ventilation system of the microwave were infested with German cockroaches. Have fun cooking your food in that, dumpster divers!
posted by nicebookrack at 4:04 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

In college we called finals week Dumpster Christmas, and made daily pilgrimages to the dorm housing most of the foreign students, many of whom were willing to throw out some remarkable things rather than pay to fly them home.
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:08 PM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

once she found boxes full of cheapy little toys in the dumpster

In the future, please Do Not Do This with kids' toys, equipment etc. unless you are 100% sure they weren't thrown out for being hazardous recalled products with toxic levels of lead in the plastic or something.
posted by nicebookrack at 4:11 PM on September 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

I live on a semi-main street so the lawn in front of our house is this magic place where pretty much anything I set out there will be taken in a very short time. Sometimes it's almost comical in that I'll set something out and then go back into the house to get the next thing and by the time I return the first thing is already gone.

As far as I'm concerned if I have something I don't want or need I'll try to give it to someone I know first, but if that doesn't work then I'll get rid of it from some combination of one of those clothing/housewares boxes, the Diabetes Association and setting it out in front of the house. My wife will do garage sales with her friends where over the course of a Saturday or Sunday she'll make less than $100 which isn't worth it for her time on the day of the sale itself let alone the prep work but I guess there's a social aspect to it for them that makes it worthwhile.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 4:17 PM on September 5, 2018

I will put pretty much anything out on the curb a couple days before trash day with a big "FREE" sign on it. If it's real broke, I'll also put a note about what's broken. Very rarely do these items actually make it to trash day.

I get a lot off Nextdoor and CL. It is more of a pain but I really get freaked out every time I contemplate landfills. We recent got a grill off CL and I probably paid as much for it as if I'd gotten it new at Home Depot, but I kept it from landfill and I didn't feel like haggling.
posted by soren_lorensen at 4:24 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I once threw out a gym bag (into a dumpster) full of probably about $1000 worth of various chemical compounds that had recently become illegal, pretty new boxing gloves and MMA sparring gear, and some other stuff on my way to the airport to leave the country.... I hope no one found it because there was enough shit there (although well labeled) to overdose about a hundred people if used irresponsibly.

I also found one of those compaq portable computers and an original Macintosh and a Mac SE in a dumpster.. those are all worth a bit of coin nowadays but I had to leave those behind too when I fled the country. Ah well.. you win some and you lose uh.. some. heh.
posted by some loser at 4:46 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Literally everything I have put out on my curb with a "FREE" sign has been taken by someone, including the cheap charcoal barbecue that was partially rusted through.

> My problem isn't the scavenging or fixing -- I loathe the selling. Can't stand flakes, hagglers, tire kickers, all the typical time-wasting assholes that haunt Kijiji or any other sales venue. I have loads of stuff I'd rather sell, but for the incredible hassle of dealing with actually doing so.

I used to have garage sales once or twice a year to unload the surplus records I wasn't going to be able to sell to stores. I stopped partly because I don't buy as many records these days and therefore don't have as many to sell, but mostly because I had anywhere from one to five guys knocking on my front door up to an hour before the sale was scheduled to start (despite the "NO EARLYBIRDS" warning on the ad), getting in arguments over who was there first and therefore got to go through the records first (eventually I had say in the ads that anyone there at the starting time would get an equally-sized stack to go through), and then wanting to haggle over records that were all priced at either $1 or $2 (and worth $5-$10). All this hassle for like $80 at the most....pffft. I just take them to thrift stores now because it's not worth the trouble for that amount of money and maybe someone who isn't an asshole will find them.
posted by The Card Cheat at 4:50 PM on September 5, 2018 [6 favorites]

On one hand yes, people waste too much stuff, on the other, I've spent a lot of time trying to find Linuxeses that co-operate with a Presario M2000 and two T42 ThinkPads. [Turns and scowls at whining laptop]
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 4:56 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

I own a (very) small factory which was recently the site of a large vintage electronics sale for myself and a couple of friends. The solution to early birds was easy - all the advertising stated "You can turn up early, but we won't open the door until 8am. Get there too early and we won't even have the balloons out and you won't find the right factory". People still turned up early, we just left them outside in the cold, which given some of the gear we had didn't seem to bother them at all.

All the stories like this proves there is an appetite for things that otherwise get thrown out, often a huge appetite, but there's a huge set of perverse incentives that result in what is in the article. Planned obsolescence is fucked and is fucking the planet.
posted by deadwax at 5:09 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

I actually supported myself in the late 90s refurbishing PCs that we collected from dumpsters and hard rubbish pickups. It was a pretty decent racket, people will throw away all kinds of completely working or almost working electronics, that just need a cleanup and an ebay. It wasn't a great living, but it was enough to keep me living inside!

I can't imagine much has changed about human behavior in the intervening 20 years
posted by jaymzjulian at 5:29 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Here I am super icked out by the subject of the Wired article who can't stop talking about money.
posted by entropone at 5:31 PM on September 5, 2018

Honestly, I'm too afraid of bedbugs, and when I was in Japan, a friend of mine picked up some speakers that had been put out, and as he plugged them into his computer, a giant cockroach strolled out. I screamed, my friend screamed, the cockroach twitched his antennae in an amiable ojama shimasu before settling into a slipper.

Now, I know that roaches hitch rides in Amazon boxes all the time, but I haven't yet seen it with my own eyes, so I can pretend it doesn't happen.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:40 PM on September 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

I found a Pocket Instamatic and an unopened roll of film from 1995 inside a vintage purse today. (I own a vintage shop.) It turns out you can still get 110 film developed pretty easily, so I'm gonna use up the roll taking pictures around the shop and see what I get.
posted by nonasuch at 6:00 PM on September 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

In the early 2000s I once walked half a mile in the rain carrying an HP LaserJet III that I had snatched up at a yard sale for $5. It was so heavy and awkward to hold that I could only manage about 75 or a hundred feet at a time before I'd have to set it down under a tree and rest. I didn't even know if it worked, or if it would even work after getting so wet. I was just so excited by the idea of getting a laser printer (and an HP no less!) for $5.

And it did work! Perfectly! But my excitement wore off quickly when I discovered that it was only 300dpi, was almost too heavy for my desk and made the room smell like burning toner.

Not long after I was able to afford one of those cheap brother laser printers.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:08 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

Unlike my local Boston-area Goodwill, the Goodwill of Northern New England has the Goodtech program where they put a little effort into identifying, testing and even assembling computer hardware before putting it out for sale in a special kiosk at the front of the store.

I've been meaning to take some stuff up the next time I'm in Portland because I have a higher degree of confidence that things like my old mini-ITX cases might end up getting to someone who really wants them.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:29 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

One of the things I like about living in a dense city is being able to put stuff out and know someone is almost certain to scavenge it. Similar to my philosophy on return cans: if I don’t have the time or inclination or wherewithal to deal with it, more power to the folks who do.

On the other hand, for a while in the dialup era, I had several trash-picked vt-100 terminals that I kept cobbling into a working monitor.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:43 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

All you scavengers need to contact me in Sydney because I got a box of cords and stuff from the Apple era (~2000 to 2016). Heck, I got not one but THREE cueCats! Drop me a line it is FREE. You must pick up. No haggling. No partials.
posted by jadepearl at 6:52 PM on September 5, 2018 [5 favorites]

I have a number of pieces of furniture in my house that I picked up off someone's curb and fixed up. Here's a before and after of an upholstered wooden chest; a before and after of a vanity table and chair that turned out to date from 1915; a before and after of a chest of drawers; the before and after of a headboard. I found all of these items on the curb. My dad compares me to a dog bringing home things in its mouth. But then mending and making do is such a way of life for me that I only have seven pieces of furniture in my house that I bought new from a retail store: a computer desk and chair, one bookcase, one mattress set (the other came from my family home), a cupboard, a couch, and a dining room table. The rest were from the curb, from thrift shops, were made for me by my woodworker dad, were family heirlooms, or were junky pieces left behind in my house when I bought it and which I have since fixed up. And guess what, I don't even particularly like the new items. My couch and dining room table are fine, a mattress set really has to be new, but I'd be more than happy to trade my desk and chair, cupboard and bookcase in for a good used items. They aren't very good quality compared to some of the pieces I've salvaged.

In my neighbourhood everyone seems to shop the curb. If I put anything I don't happen to need out on the curb it's gone in no time. I've seen people drag something out of their house and put it out on the sidewalk, only to spot something that their neighbour had put out and scurry over to inspect it.
posted by orange swan at 6:57 PM on September 5, 2018 [8 favorites]

Yeah, wayyyy too much stuff. And it can be a bit of a hassle to sell stuff. I occasionally go to the Goodwill Outlet, just got a nice old cast iron pan, the kind with the spun smooth surface. I have a need for a bunch of scares for a dance group; found @ a dozen will find more next time. There are professional gleaners who take kids' clothes,dishes, whatever, back to Povertyville and sell them; it's a recycling system. They always, always have so much Christmas crap. So much.

I have gotten great stuff by the side of the road, rugs, lumber, tents, whatever. When I moved, I got rid of stuff with freecycle of craigslist. It's not terribly difficult, an keeps decent stuff out of the landfill.
posted by theora55 at 7:08 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

Where do I find MacBook Pros (and parts) people are getting rid of? I've got an early 2011 model I've repeatedly resuscitated by scavenging my parents' old laptops, but there's little left at this point. Anyone dumping theirs? I don't much want one of the new ones that functionally prohibit DIY repair.

I recently had to splurge on a new power adapter. I previously spliced the wires on two broken ones, but my Frankencable broke in a new place and nearly caught fire... Overpriced crap.
posted by cichlid ceilidh at 7:09 PM on September 5, 2018

Part of my serious culture shock moving to DC from Oakland was that people just don't walk off with shit the same way in town, which means way less just putting things out on the curb in many places. You go out to the not-fancy burbs and everything is salvaged. All the good thrift and salvage here is in the inside (or just outside) the beltway ethno-burbs; in the city proper you'll get overpriced vintage pier one-looking stuff or serious collectibles, and people just throw away things otherwise, outside certain neighborhoods.

Most of my good stuff from ten years ago was salvaged in the east bay - most of my good stuff now is thrifted or actually overpaid for. I should really do some dumpster diving here.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:15 PM on September 5, 2018

While escaping / moving out of an extremely crappy apartment complex, I once threw away a still-almost-new, working-perfectly microwave, because the wiring, door panel, and ventilation system of the microwave were infested with German cockroaches. Have fun cooking your food in that, dumpster divers!

I once moved into a two-bedroom place with a roommate (whom I had already known for years) who was moving out of a place with a cockroach problem. He was assiduous in laundering and bagging everything that could take this treatment; for the two or three things that could not -- microwave included -- they sat on the balcony for the first month.

I lived there for two years and never saw a bug. Regardless of my minimal knowledge of the family Blattidae, I can tell you that they are not fans of living unheated through a month of Canadian winter.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:26 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

orange swan, those are gorgeous! Furniture flipping both seems like a pleasingly lucrative hobby and also just makes me happy. I like seeing old broken things get a second chance at life.
posted by capricorn at 7:44 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

ricochet biscuit, the roach-infested apartment building I was fleeing was in Atlanta, and no self-respecting cockroach would flinch at toughing out a Georgia winter. Unless they were eaten by palmetto bugs. Plus any microwave you left outside would be covered in mold, kudzu, and/or tree pollen in a week. God, I miss Atlanta.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:48 PM on September 5, 2018 [4 favorites]

I love all y'all for your creativity and crafty DIY spirits, so before you scrub away at your lovely dumpster furniture finds to restore them, please take care to test the paint for lead
posted by nicebookrack at 7:56 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

"You pick up, no haggling, email only, no partial sale"

Reminds me of an 8-bit-guy video I watched last week, on 'eBay and Craiglist, the reality of doing business'. Same kinds of responses.

Speaking of 8-bit, his segments on overhauling old computers have led to people sending him used computers (and games, add-ons, peripherals, etc.) from all over the world, at their expense. For anyone interested in troubleshooting PC hardware, it's a dont-miss series.
posted by Twang at 8:20 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

Some of this reminds me of Lars Eighner's "On Dumpster Diving". [PDF] Much of this has to do with food and what's safe to eat, but there are also some bits on salvaging non-perishables, and some observations on what gets discarded and why, in particular in/around college towns.

I've never taken anything from within a dumpster, but I've salvaged furniture from next-to-the-dumpster and curbs. (Nothing with upholstery, because of bedbugs and whatever.) I've also seen the power of curbing stuff from the other side: when I moved into a house and had central air put in, we sold our window AC units, except for one that was in bad shape that we stuck in our little storage space until I finally decided to put it out on the curb to see if anyone might want it. I got halfway back up the driveway when I heard a truck pull over to grab it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:25 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Ah, the anarchist vegan warehouse used to occasionally have a seemingly unlimited supply of Clif bars dumpster-dived from behind the manufacturer's warehouse. Never has my glycemic index been higher.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:43 PM on September 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

every microwave has the same standard components inside - the only actual quality difference is the interior coating and how fast it rusts.

The microwave in my kitchen is the one my father bought for my grandmother in 1987. So far as I can tell it looks and functions the same as it did when it was new.

When my roommate moved out several years ago and into his own apartment he bought himself a brand new brand name microwave. The interior of that microwave is already a rusted-out hell scape. I hadn't even known that was a thing that could happen, never mind a common experience.
posted by Secret Sparrow at 8:46 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just hate how competitive it is to pick up stuff like this. I know people who work full time scouring thrift stores and other places for electronics (and clothes and records and other stuff, for that matter). By the time I get there, it's picked clean, or it's Goodwill auctioning stuff off for ludicrous money.

I just want a stupid alarm clock that buzzes, like the one I had when I was a kid. You can't even buy them new anymore. I'm not going to buy a "vintage midcentury" one for $$.

I think it's especially bad around here.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 9:13 PM on September 5, 2018

shapes that haunt the dust: Reproduction clocks?
posted by nicebookrack at 11:08 PM on September 5, 2018

In college we called finals week Dumpster Christmas... posted by Pope Guilty

Can confirm, believe PG refers to my hometown, but he and his pals either observed changing economic circumstances or missed a trick because we did the same thing circa 1980-1990 but in the alleys behind various Frat Row locales. I don't think I paid for a single stereo-playback device or ungainly furnishing the whole time I was in school.
posted by mwhybark at 11:55 PM on September 5, 2018 [1 favorite]

I still tease my Dad about throwing out my mint condition still working Mac SE a couple years ago. Grrr. He saved the mouse for me. Why?

But, I'm way up on the positive side. Currently:
* Really nice, old steel medical / laboratory lamp now in my office
* Some weird welded iron chain link things that are a nice conversation piece. Picked up behind Tokyo University of the Arts. Always patrol university garbage depots and arts schools are the best.
* Various pots and pans and stuff.

And, in the past almost every furnishing in my various apartments in Boston (end of dorm curbside shopping) and Nagoya back when Japan used to have separate large-garbage areas and pick up. There. the legendary working, quality stereo equipment, TVs, appliances, etc. A few guitars and keyboards. All kinds of good stuff. Once got a whole bag of really high quality clothes in the North End discarded by a lawyer who was enlarging. All the trousers and shirts had those button extender loop things to try to get one more inch out of the waist or neck. A little too Brooks Brothers and Banana Republic for me, but great when I got a job that needed that. That was thirty + years ago and I only finally discarded the last of those clothes recently. Old BB and BR clothes made 40 years ago were super durable and high quality.

These days I mainly check out the dump at work once in a while. So many laptops. There was a really sweet vintage Kirin Beer fridge there recently, but by the time I got a dolly someone else had snagged it.
posted by Gotanda at 11:56 PM on September 5, 2018

Ha! These days municipal websites in Japan (at least in the last few towns I’ve lived) will inform you that taking stuff from the curb or the dump site is STEALING and BAD.
Probably because the previous owner will have bought recycling stickers for the items to be picked up by the city, and some rando taking the stuff would rob the owner of the use value of that paid for service.
posted by AxelT at 1:55 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Literally everything I have put out on my curb with a "FREE" sign has been taken by someone...

I suspect it's more effective to put stuff out on the kerb with a sign saying something like "£10 ono".
I've seen stuff on my street disappear in minutes like that, and I'm willing to bet no money changed hands.
posted by faceplantingcheetah at 3:58 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

Completely agree that "$25 ono" (or nearest offer) is much more effective

Rule 2: If it is solid - wood, particleboard and no electronics - paint it white and then decide

Rule 3: If it is not solid - a screwdriver and a seven year old. ANYTHING that survives that combination has major salvage value. If you want to prepare for the apocalypse - that is the test you use.

Rule 4: What does the beach/mountain/fishing/children's place need? Something that no-one gets fussed about.
posted by Barbara Spitzer at 5:08 AM on September 6, 2018

I suspect it's more effective to put stuff out on the kerb with a sign saying something like "£10 ono".
I've seen stuff on my street disappear in minutes like that, and I'm willing to bet no money changed hands.

Yes, this has happened to me several times.

Washing machine "working, free, please take away"... still there at the end of the day.
Washing machine "working, £25"... gone in 30 minutes.
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 5:17 AM on September 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

oh, suppose I should share my weirdest dumpstering scores: not once, but twice, I have found swords. One was a kendo sparring sword, wooden, no edge, and the other was a rubber cosplay costume sword. The kendo sword was found during Dumpster Christmas in Bloomington, like 33 lears ago. The rubber sword was found across the street from my house in Seattle about a year ago.
posted by mwhybark at 10:49 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

There's also the CL/FB post tagged "FOC" for "Free On Curb," alerting locals that there's something out there to go grab -- and why it's worth grabbing.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:08 PM on September 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

Near from my office, the students of the Rhode Island School of Design throw away TONS of stuff every spring. A friend of mine is an alum, and for years she would cruise the dorm dumpsters the week of move-out for free stuff.

The school wised up, and realized that not only were they paying for it all to be hauled away, but also that their students are future, literal "staving artists" -- so now they have a storefront where these materials get reused!

Anyone can come in and donate materials, and then get credit to buy other donated items. Students dump the tools they only needed for one semester, and departments can unload old gear, and locals can donate stuff; anyone can come in and pay cash for anything that's on the shelves. I am not associated with RISD, but I go down there to pick up open packets of screws, or scrap leather, or half a can of clearcoat, or a fistful of pens, or three small tubes of fabric paint, etc., etc.

Once in a while I find a gem (I paid 25 cents today for a Rite-In-The-Rain pen, which costs $15.95. w00t!), and every time I pick up something I can use, so I go weekly when the weather is good.

It's a trip, if you're in the area: RISD 2nd Life, at 251 S Main St, Providence, RI 02903, open like 12:30-5:00, six days a week.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:17 PM on September 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

There are Buy Nothing groups all over the US. is organized so you can offer or request stuff.
Craigslist has a free section; people can be flaky, but it can be quite useful.
posted by theora55 at 2:09 PM on September 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

In my large multi-family dwelling facility there is a dedicated swap area in the recycling collection room. Many fine things are placed there and near instantly scooped up again by others. Thankfully, building maintenance staff regularly combs it over and picks out obviously useless/worthless/dangerous items in short order so it doesn't turn into a pile of trash.
posted by seanmpuckett at 2:32 PM on September 6, 2018 [3 favorites]

OK, here is my ultimate given away at the curb: Misrendered organic pork lard. So there is a table near the Russian Orthodox church in my old neighborhood that you can drop off things to give away. I usually had electronics but I had 5 pounds (2KG for my metric minded friends) of pork lard that I had rendered in cast iron, incorrectly i.e., did not do it in water but straight in an ancient dutch oven which proceeded to tint that pure lard a shade of cream brown. I knew the lard was good because the neighbor used it to attract bears on his property up north. Anyway, I still had this lard in a large glass container with nothing to do with it and it just annoyed my aesthetic sensibility. I wrote a note as I put it on the table: "rendered organic pork lard -- edible; no problem." Friends, it was gone by the time I got back in a fit of remorseful thinking of who could possibly take stranger/street fat from a folding table? What is the lesson? Street fat moves, yo.
posted by jadepearl at 7:05 PM on September 6, 2018 [4 favorites]

What is the lesson? Street fat moves, yo.

Hey, Cortex, you still looking for t-shirt slogans for the merch project?
posted by wenestvedt at 5:48 AM on September 7, 2018 [3 favorites]

My dad was going to throw out an Altair computer (like I was a the dump and it was in the pile with all the other junk in the trailer). I took it home, put it on ebay and sold it for $1K.
posted by vespabelle at 11:37 AM on September 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

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