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How to Make Money by Curb Surfing or Recycling Scrap

Updated on August 27, 2018

Curb Surfing?

Today’s economy is seeing an influx of different ways people are resorting to make money. Some of which could be termed ‘garbage picking’, taking items to be recycled but my brother calls it ‘curb surfing‘. This has been done for years, only now with a more experienced eye. My brother has become quite adept at selecting his treasures and can find a use for the most simplest of items.

His talents are such, that I sent my son to stay with him for a few days just to show some basic survival skills that should be learned by everyone. Within 3 days my son had profited $180.00. By profit, I am referring to all the gas that was used and the food that was consumed along with a 50/50 split with my brother, my son had $180.00 in his pocket to return home with. I'd say that was a very profitable venture.

For the last 10 or so years my brother has recycled for profit. The phrase “One’s mans trash is another mans treasure” has never been more true than in his life. He has found many items that were not only repairable for resale but totally usable in his own home. He lives in a town that has been hit very hard by the current recession to the tune of people leaving the city in droves. In the process of these people leaving, they leave behind treasures on the curb that my brother picks up to use.

Where to start

The first thing one should find is a recycling company, where you can take scrap metals that pay by the pound. The next option you might want to consider is getting an e-bay account if you should find something that is sellable you will have it up and running, just take a picture of it and put it up for sale. Set aside an area for your treasures, garage, basement, or get a tarp to protect what you have rescued. You wouldn’t want it ruined before you have a chance to clean it up for resale. Consider using Craigslist for selling items, remember to keep the items you sell at a price people can afford, you didn’t pay a dime for it don’t try to charge a fortune. Garage sales are a good way to sell your treasures, make sure you advertise your sale by using signs, some local papers even offer this service for free.

To recycle for profit requires a dedication to keeping an eye out at every turn of the head. One never knows what will be found while riding their bike to the store. My brother has gotten very good at this, he can tell by just a glance if what he sees will turn him a profit, or be useful in anyway.

He begins with the basics, he knows the days that the garbage man will be around in all the neighborhoods. He begins by traveling to each neighborhood the day before trash day. He scours the area well, determining if something can be salvaged. In order to save money while he is doing this he uses his bicycle. He not only gets exercise, but it costs him nothing in gas. Should he find something of worth setting on the curb, he usually asks the owner if he may have it, then he sets it aside to pick up later. Often, the owner will offer him something much larger than can be put to the curb, just to get it out of the house.

What to do with what you have found

When he gets his prizes home, he has to go through them to see what can be recycled, what can be used, and what is to end up in the pile deemed “scrap”.  Yes, even scrap has its purpose.  Scrap is unusable metals that are sold by weight and melted down again to create things such as cars, washing machines etc.  

Most if his treasures need cleaning, even if it means stripping wiring.  “Clean” product is more valuable than “dirty“, meaning; it pays more.  So he spends his evenings cleaning products.  Clean aluminum pays more than dirty aluminum, so he removes the screws and any glue or other stuff that is stuck to it.  Stripping the wire is hard work but the pay is worth it, all of the rubber and material that surrounds the wiring has to be removed to do this.  In his garage he keeps buckets for aluminum screws, and buckets for nails keeping them separate allows for a higher price at the scrap yard.  He has rescued shelving, which aids him in keeping his recycled materials separated.  

If he comes across a construction site (few and far between in this town) he will ask the person in charge if he may go through their dumpster to see what materials he finds.  Wood bits and other items are very useful to adding shelves and making repairs inside his home.  Sometimes he is lucky to find sheets of drywall that have broken corners, he just makes a square edge and it’s useful.  He has even made repairs in others homes with the bit’s a pieces he has found ‘dumpster diving’ turning a profit.  Should he be lucky to come across a demolition of a home he will ask if he can pick through their dumpster as well.   Brass doorknobs and hinges along with cupboard handles can be cleaned up and sold to those who need it.

He has found many treasures that if they were sold on eBay could fetch quite a nice bit of pocket change.  Most of these he keeps in his home to be given as gifts at Christmas or birthdays.  Who wouldn't love a nice set of gold trimmed plates for Christmas?  How about a working lawn mower or weed eater for Fathers Day?   He has even been able to decorate his entire home with items that he has discovered on the curb.  Couches, tables, chairs you name it he has found it.

Yes, he finds and fixes these items, along with tossed out vacuums to be sold at a reasonable price to those in need, sometimes he donates things he has found to those who cannot afford to buy them.  They in turn give him items that he can recycle.  

Sometimes he is amazed at what is tossed to the curb, but very glad for the opportunity to pick them up and find uses for them.  He is not what you would call a rich man, but he lives quite comfortably and this is all due to his ability to utilize what others have deemed as trash.  Nothing is beneath his perusal for profit.


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