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An Elitists Guide to Dumpster Diving - Recycling

Updated on January 23, 2010

Most importantly we are recycling!


Recycling should be the main point of dumpster diving. I find that when I say I am recycling it touches a guilty part or proud part of each of us. And while you are there why not. There are many recycling centers around the US, and they take more than just cans, plastics, or glass or in California your CRV’s. They also take copper, brass, and aluminum. This is where scrapping comes into play, and is an easy way to turn your troubles of jumping into trash cans into quick and easy money. The name of the game is Aluminum. Listed under supplies I have put first, a magnet. A magnet is your friend. If it doesn’t stick you can get money for it, unless of course its stainless steel, which I think is the only exception. You can get close to a $1.00 a pound depending on the market for these metals. Aluminum is the lightest, but it is the most easily found. If its silver in color and pretty light and the magnet doesn’t stick its either silver, aluminum, or chrome. If its light then its probably aluminum. Take it to your recycling center that recycles various metals and its cash. Copper is also very valuable. You may find it if people are remodeling say a bathroom or kitchen and are throwing out copper pipe scraps, rare but it happens. You will also find wire, copper wire, which you can strip or just turn in as it is. You just get more money if it is pure stripped copper wire. But if you find a bucket of wires, grab it, that might just be $10 to you.

Unlikely items you may find that you can recycle for cash

Computer boards, like mother boards

Pots and pans

Car radiators


Tracks and frames from windows and shower doors

Plumbing pipes

Old faucets


Door knobs

Almost any kind of Wire

Now when you recycle scrap metals, you have to clean them, this means remove the stuff that is not recyclable. For instance you will need to remove the wood or plastic handles from the pots and pans that you may find. Or you will need to remove the aluminum from the shower doors. You will need a few kinds of good screwdrivers for this, I carry a small five in one screwdriver for this with a few extra bits, a square bit and a torx bit. It is also to your advantage to carry a long screwdriver in say the trunk of your car, in case you need leverage, and maybe a few open end wrenches. To be honest, I carry a full tool bag with me. You never know when you will need a hammer or mallet, some hex keys or a good ratchet. On several occasions I have found some decent furniture, desks and tables that I could take with me because they wouldn’t fit in or on my car. All I needed was the right size hex key and 5 minutes and I would have been on my way.

Recycling Cans, Plastics and Bottles

Many people say to stay away from glass, its messy, can break and is heavy. Its your choice. If there is a lot of it, grab it, but one or two bottles here and there, eh, its your call.

This is the age of the water bottle. They are everywhere. I crush them when I find them so I can pack more into my car. To crush I unscrew the cap a bit, squeeze, then rescrew. I know someone else who packs them into a bag and then tramples them. This scares me because I am afraid of the pop. Oh and with plastic bottles, always check the top, you may win something if there is a contest going on.

Cans are simple, just crush and go. You may want to save the tabs to help cure breast cancer.

Keep you recyclable separate, cans with cans, bottles with bottles and keep opaque bottles like Milk containers separate from that. Not all places accept milk containers, and whatever you do don’t open the milk containers, a scent you would not believe comes from it.

When it comes to actually recycling your items I like to go to actual recycling centers where you can recycle along with your cans and bottles, aluminum, copper, and stainless steel in their raw form. Usually you just put whatever you have separated in trash cans, they weigh the cans and give you the cash. It works out real nice. Check your phone book and make some phone calls, I am sure you can find a place near you.

Next I would like to discuss what you can do with your newly found treasures and some final words.


Why not read them all?! Other exciting hub posts that can be found in this series are:


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    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 6 years ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      This hub is GREAT! Brings back memories of when I was healthy and dove into many-a dumpster. What memories. And treasures too. Love your writing.

    • Georgina_writes profile image

      Georgina_writes 8 years ago from Dartmoor

      Fascinating hubs. My son always likes to hang around the council skip (dumpster) that visits every other month, but mostly the council won't let you take anything as it's their property.

    • peggypat profile image

      Peggy Patrick Medberry 8 years ago from Los Angeles

      Again.. some really good advice and it never occurred to me that wire or old pipes might actually have a value!

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 8 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Yesterday, I picked two perfectly functioning electric fans from the trash in front of a neighbor's house. Any bids?