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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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    • Highvoltagewriter profile image

      William Benner 

      7 years ago from Savannah GA.

      Curb surfing...Hmm I never heard it called that before, and yet I live in places that this was major past time. Great job!

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 

      10 years ago from USA

      Great tips. My father-in-law must have been the original "curb surfer", and my husband can't pass up a bargain at our local recycling center where certain areas are up for grabs! Best of all we are keeping "green" by not throwing away usable things.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Ummm, was it an ewwwwww moment? LOL

      My brother is really good at it, he amazes me with how he knows what is good and what isn't. Even if I think there is nothing you can do with it, he can think of something.

      Thanks for stopping by and giving me my first grin of the day!!

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      10 years ago from south Florida

      curb surfing, eh? I heard of a lady who used to curb surf in front of her house every day wearing a very revealing bathing suit. But the police made her stop.

      Your hub describes a clever way to make money, susie.

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Yes! It is an awesome way to make money. I love the fact that he was able to teach my son some basic survival skills! Hope you get the chance to show others how ti do this. When I was a teen, my mother did it with her friends. I was embarrassed at the time (hey I was a kid) but she only went to the affluent neighborhoods! LOL

    • WoodsmensPost profile image


      10 years ago from Arizona

      I do curb surfing all the time. It is a hidden money maker that is in plain site if you know what can be recycled for money. I just picked up a TV stand with wheels practically brand new the other day. Its great your brother enjoys it. I'm sure he loves his job more than most people can say for the 9-5 !! I blogged back in 2008 about making money this way and it still is a good way to make money!!!

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      My brother is a 'jack of all trades' so this for him is right up his alley. My son was in a panic of how to earn money quickly, so I gave my brother a call. My son not only earned money, but learned a whole lot in 3 days! When he came home with that much money I was to say the least, surprised. I thought maybe my brother had just let him have all the profits, but he said "No Mom, we split everything 50/50 after the gas and food".

      Glad you enjoyed it!

    • JillKostow profile image

      Jill Kostowskie 

      10 years ago from Pennsylvania

      This is a great way to earn extra cash, especially if you know what you are looking at. I knew a couple who would "curb surf" all the time, they would bring me items, I would post the items on Ebay and I got paid from the profits. I got 40% of everything that sold. It was a nice chunck of extra cash that was well needed. Unfortunately they moved away. But I did learn from the experience. I do not have the time to go out looking so now I just wait for my kids to grow out of toys and clothing and sell that on Ebay. It earns us that extra much needed money to puchase new clothing and toys for them!!! Great hub!!!!

    • Sweetsusieg profile imageAUTHOR


      10 years ago from Michigan

      Yep, that's all part of it with him, he can even change the appearance of one thing to make it a new thing. So that's even niftier! He doesn't keep a large selection, it's not like he's a 'junk collector', he has a high rate of turn over.

      Thanks for reading!

    • habee profile image

      Holle Abee 

      10 years ago from Georgia

      Never heard it called "curb Surfing"! I have a friend who makes extra money selling scrap metal. Great tips!


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