I was amazed to learn that dumpster diving can be far more profitable than merely fishing out usable and edible food. Wired reports:
Malone stops his Chevy Avalanche next to the dumpster in back of an Office Depot. Within seconds, he’s out of the truck and sticking his magnetized flashlight to the inside of the dumpster’s wall. He heaves himself up onto the metal rim to lean inside and begins digging through a top layer of cardboard and packing materials. Half a minute later I hear what I will learn is Malone’s version of eureka: “Hell yes! Hell yes!” He comes out with a box containing a complete Uniden Wireless Video Surveillance System—two cameras and a wireless monitor—which normally retails for $419. A quick inspection reveals that it’s all in perfect condition, although someone has clearly opened and repacked it. “A return,” he says, then plunges back into the dumpster.
Ten minutes later, when he’s again behind the wheel of the Avalanche, Malone continues to tell me about the material benefits of dumpster diving. If he were to dedicate himself to the activity as a full-time job, he says, finding various discarded treasures, refurbishing and selling them off, he’s confident he could pull in at least $250,000 a year—there is that much stuff simply tossed into dumpsters in the Austin area. He lists a few recent “recoveries”: vacuums, power tools, furniture, carpeting, industrial machines, assorted electronics. Much of it needs a little love, he says, but a lot of it, like this Uniden system, is in perfect condition.
. . .
At first, Malone mainly used his discoveries for various hobby projects. Along with his mini choppers, he built an electric skateboard, a set of plasma speakers, several 3-D projectors, and a computer that ran while submerged in mineral oil. “People would come over and ask, ‘Man, where’d you get that?’” he recalls. “I’d say, ‘Well, I made it.’ I didn’t say right away that I made it mostly from stuff I got out of dumpsters.” Inevitably his friends would ask to buy his various toys, and—usually already bored with them and having moved on to a new project—he would agree to sell. Even so, his garage soon overflowed, and Malone decided he should make some space by staging a weekend yard sale.
That sale provided several revelations. The biggest was what sold with the drive-by public. “I had all my cool stuff out front, a couple of very nice computers, mini choppers, some high-end printers—the big-ticket stuff—thinking, ‘This is what’s going to make me the money.’” It wasn’t. Instead, people flocked to “the small stuff”: the photo paper and toner he’d pulled out of the dumpsters at OfficeMax and Office Depot, the hand tools he’d found in the trash at Harbor Freight, the CDs from GameStop dumpsters, the assorted seasonal tchotchkes that had been tossed by the employees at Pier 1 and Cost Plus. “I eventually figured out that I had to sell the big stuff on Amazon or Craigslist,” Malone says. But all those small sales added up: By Sunday afternoon he had collected a little more than $3,000 in cash. “And that was when I realized, ‘This has the potential to be something.’”
There's much more at the link.
That's a pretty amazing story. Y'know, if it weren't for my fused spine and damaged sciatic nerve, I'd be sorely tempted to try it for myself . . . I've already got a pickup truck, after all!