They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and if you’ve ever gone dumpster diving, you know the joys of finding something unique for free. Well, sanitation workers have that opportunity every day. Here are 12 stories of the wildest finds these workers have ever…found.
12. Missed one
I was a county park worker for a summer: mow the grass, trim trees, repair playgrounds/picnic areas, etc. This was a very large, thousands of acres, lots of woods park. There was close to 60 garbage cans on the property. We took turns being trash guys with one large pickup truck that had been trash hauler for YEARS. The thing stunk, bad. I was pretty quick at the job, used free time after my hauling to read the news paper or just mess around for a couple hours at the end of the day. Well, one day the supervisor catches me, I was being stupid about parking location and instead of chewing me out says “bet you missed one garbage!” I thought after two months I knew the park pretty well, he pulls out the trail map and shows me, almost dead center of the woods, one location with the trash symbol on it… and insists I bring a wheelbarrow.
Okay, how bad can this be? Almost a quarter mile into the woods, there’s a pair of trash cans, and the lids aren’t quite sitting right on them. Walking up, the smell hits me. Terrible in the humid Minnesota August heat. open the top to see they’re both filled to the top with dog shit baggies. They had to be over 50lbs each, there was a lot of struggle to get each one up and I was dry heaving after the first one, and only one would fit into when wheel barrow at a time.
Getting back to the shop to clean up and go home for the day, I asked my fellow park workers about and none of them even knew it was there, it hadn’t been emptied for months.
11. Poor little things
I grew up hauling trash in a family owned business. When I was about ten we were hauling trash at 4 am and our first stop we went out to the chicken farm just outside of town. When I got out all I could hear was chirping. I threw back the lids of the dumpster and it was filled with little crates of baby chicks. I’m talking hundreds of them (it was a 6 yard container). I don’t know why they threw them away (my dad said they were probably sick or something). What else could we do but dump the container. For the next few hours all I could think about was how the chirping got quieter and quieter as we packed on a load. By the time we got to the landfill only a few were still alive.
25 years later that shit still haunts me.
10. Be careful what you throw away
Not a garbage man, but I used to remove hazardous waste from a large hospital. One day I got called into the OR because some tech had thrown away a gallbladder that needed to be tested for cancer. We called the dumpster company and they came to open it, I then spent the next 3 hours or so going through the dumpster searching for a cancer ridden gallbladder.
9. A good side hustle
A friend of mine worked for garbage collecting and later at a sorting facility. He made a very decent business selling all sorts of electronics and appliances people would leave at the free drop-off point.
He had hundreds of old computers. Commodores, Amigas, old Mac’s and gaming consoles (pre PS/Xbox). He’d switch around the dead parts (if any), re-solder components, clean everything in some alcohol solution where you dip the whole chip board. He even used some sort of chemical that would de-age the plastic. You know how old plastic goes all yellow, he wiped this solution on it and left for a day or so and it would look just like new.
8. A perfect playhouse
My grandfather used to work at the dump. My family called it the road 120 hardware store. He brought everything home. Tools galore, all kinds of metal for recycling, furnature, decorative odds and ends. He built my sister and I a playhouse outside that was entirely furnished with people’s junk. Child sized table and chairs, a tiny TV and radio, loads of toys that just needed a little scrubbing. My grandparents had a yearly garage sale with all the findings they didn’t want and made hundreds of dollars selling people their own fat asses back to them.
7. Moving day is the worst
I was a driver for a large company with green trucks. People will throw ANYTHING away. Skinned sheep heads. Gigantic, soiled sex toys. Deer stomachs. One house had 15 bags of nearly-new, designer clothes in the trash each week for almost a month. Move-out piles were the worst. People would toss out what seemed like the entire contents of the house, and it would take us 15 minutes to load the truck, then we would fill up early and have to run to the landfill, and it would screw the whole day.
Found some good stuff, too. An entire box of brand-new, embossed metal Rolling Rock Beer signs that I sold on EBay for $400. An unopened box of copper tubing. My loader found two 1920’s baseball cards worth several thousand dollars.
6. Vintage cards
Not a garbage man, but my buddy curb surfed a neighbor’s place while moving out and found a huge box of baseball cards. For those who don’t know, most baseball cards made between 1980 and 1995 are completely worthless, but I collect and it was a nice gesture. I dug though about half of them one night and found literally nothing of value of any more than 10 cents or so. The next night i was trying to avoid work and decided to continue on my exercise in futility. At the bottom of the box I notices some cards that looked “different” on their sides. Somehow, some real vintage desirable cards had found their way. Among the, a complete set of 1957 Elvis Cards, a complete 1950s Topps western set, a large group of 1954 Bowman football cards with hall of famers and a 1958 near complete set of Topps cards with Jim Brown Rookie. In all, easily worth $1000=$1500 or so.
5. Students are wasteful
Although I’m not a trash man, I was in charge of security for several large dorms in Virginia’s second largest university. I would help with room inspections when the students moved out for the summer break, we would split the dorms up into sections, each checking the rooms in their assigned section. Whatever was left in the rooms by the students was fair game. It was like a game, or legalized looting. You would not believe what these kids would leave behind. Televisions, computers, clothes, shoes, VCR’s (this was a while ago,ha!), food (canned or jarred food), furniture, CD’s, stereos, and much more. I think part of it was from student aid refunds. I believe some of these kids would buy things with their refund checks then be unable to take their new “toys” home with them because they would be unable to explain to mom and dad that they had spent their entire refund check on guilty pleasures.
The best thing I ever found was a very large television, probably 50″-60″, rear projection of course but top notch for that time. Heavy as hell, but worth the struggle. I also found a large plastic water cooler bottle filled with change. After rolling the coins (pre Coinstar days, you kids have it so easy now, ha!) I figured out I had over three hundred dollars in coins. These are all things that were willingly left behind. We didn’t start this process until two days after last day to move out, giving everyone ample time. The lease agreement signed by the residents stated clearly they would forfeit anything left after the end of the semester. One student left his entire wardrobe, and he had very expensive taste in clothes and shoes. He was much smaller than me but I called a few friends and they took all of his name brand clothes and shoes. It was always fun, the crew would have walkie talkies and there was constant chatter. “You won’t believe what I just found in 343A!” “Does anyone want a leather Lazyboy, its in good shape but I don’t need it.” “I found more porn!”
4. Two words: free beer
My dad and uncle used to work in the garbage department. They told me they used to love working near the university because the rich kids would throw out everything and anything. Loose change, slightly used appliances, everything. My dad actually still has a replica of a flail, a hand axe and an old school pistol that he found while on garbage.
In my town we have a brewery that used to throw out just expired beer or excess beer bottles (full) at the city dump site. Guys would literally swarm the spot where the beer was dumped. My dad says most of the time the guys would split it between them but sometimes someone would get greedy and a fist fit would ensue.
Most illegal stuff he told me about was finding a bin full of brass knuckles. Those are illegal in Canada.
3. It’s amazing what companies will throw out
I’m late to the party, but I worked in the trash industry for 6 years. I hauled it to the landfill for 2 years and loaded it for 4. While hauling it I found all kinds of copper wire, unopened liquor, and Wal-Mart and kmart returns. I’m not entirely sure why they chucked the items instead of reselling but it was their loss.
During my years loading it at the transfer, I realized that you’d be shocked at the things companies throw out. The drivers who picked up the trash would keep the loaders and some of the bosses in the loop (they would call ahead about what they had picked up). Every Tuesday a load would come in from a high end electronics store. I still use the speaker system, receiver, and the DVD player I got from those loads. I worked the night shift at my first loading gig, and sometimes the local Budweiser warehouse would throw out beer. They weren’t throwing out bad beer, they were throwing out entire pallets because a couple of the cases were damaged. Needless to say, I filled my truck. Another time, a liquor store had a fire and the insurance company made them destroy their stock. Almost all of the bottles had a little soot on it, but we’re drinkable. I filled an entire storage unit with liquor. It was nice to have my own liquor store. The Wal-Mart loads were always full of toys in the box and working electronics.
You’d be shocked to see what companies throw out. Also, when people die and the family doesn’t want to deal with their stuff, it goes in a dumpster. I have several Playboys from the 40’s and 50’s, along with just about anything you can think of.
2. Surprising finds in Canada
Finally my time to shine. I worked as sort of a secondary garbage man (I was on the truck when they needed an extra hand or the main guy was sick) and from the short time I have a list of the things I found. And some of the more valuable things the other guys acquired. Mind you this is from a small canadian town.
A working PS3. A working iphone 4, (this was before the 5 was introduced) 2 laptop computers. (Monitors were broken, and nothing else) Multiple desktop PCs. An fm transmitter. Every tool you would ever need. An n64 with a few games. 5 bottles of unopened hard liquor. All sorts of hunting equipment. And furniture. Lots of good furniture that I ended up refurbishing and selling.
A lot of what I found was technology, simply because I had an eye for it.
The main garbage man had a room in his house dedicated to the things he found. From $400 snowboards to full toolboxes and audio systems. And the truck driver made about an extra $500 every two months from recycling cans people would throw out.
I also stumbled across a $100 bill once at the landfill.
1. A new pet
My dad was a garbage man for most of my childhood and he has some good stories. One of my favorite (not disgusting…but could have been) ones is that he found a live duck in the garbage right before he was going to throw a can. He got it out and took it home and we kept it for several years while we lived in the country. After we moved we let him go in a local park where lots of ducks lived.