Cory Doctorow published a story last year about his friend, Darren Atkinson, an accomplished corporate dumpster diver who has funded his musical career through the waste of corporations. “When he travels overseas, he is always sure to carry over a suitcase with a thousand or so British power cables (server manufacturers include both U.S. and U.K. cables with their products, so every data center regularly throws away the foreign leads). He sells them in London for a pound each, financing his round-trip airfare and hotel with his e-waste arbitrage.”
Back in college, after reading about dumpster diving, I joined a few friends of mine in scouring some of the dumpsters at Carnegie Mellon. Carnegie Mellon is known for computer science and engineering, so there was always a lot of technology being tossed into the trash. We only went out a few times, to some dumpsters in a loading area of Wean Hall, and most of the time we came back empty handed (none of us were willing to go into a dumpsters). However, one time we brought back some huge spools of Cat-5 ethernet cable and baluns, turning that trip into a hugely (for college kids) profitable trip. Back then, all the buildings were wired for high speed internet and to interface with the system you needed a balun. You could buy it from the bookstore for $25, or you could buy it from us for $10 or $15 a pop on misc.market (the bboard used to buy and sell stuff on campus). One of my friends, over the summers, would do subcontracting work on new office buildings and he borrowed some tools so we could crimp and attach RJ-45 connectors. We would sell ethernet cable on the cheap and then the baluns that would help you connect them to the network. I still have one of those baluns in a box… though it’s probably worth nothing now. It wasn’t a bad racket for some weekend beer money.
This isn’t a true dumpster diving story in that no dumpster were involved but we used to scour the dorms after finals week for discards. People would just leave perfectly good stuff outside their doors for people to take. My friend made a habit of finding all the dorm fridges and storing them in his room for the summer, he could sell them for $100 a pop come the fall semester. There were pots and pans, furniture, and all sorts of electronic equipment; all sitting in piles for you to take. The reason why there was so much quality stuff was because CMU had a lot of international students who, if they were moving back abroad, weren’t going to be taking their stuff with them. Man those were the days…
Have you ever gone dumpster diving?