Landfill Workers Reveal The Most Interesting Things They've Uncovered At The Dump
They say one man's trash is another man's treasure. Who better to comment on that idea than the people paid to collect trash?
Reddit user MortyBingle asked "Landfill workers: What's the most interesting thing you've seen dumped at the landfill, and have you kept anything that was worth keeping?"
Here are the stories from people who worked in recycling centers, landfills, dumps or just dumpster dove in their spare time.
My dad works in his local landfill and has for many years now. We affectionately refer to it as 'the mall' the amount of stuff he's brought home is staggering, including a small 2 person sailboat, vintage sewing machine, camera equipment and so much more. The best times he says are about once a year when an enraged soon to be ex husband or wife will drive up and dump all of their ex's possessions onto the heap. It's usually followed a day or two later by the other half of the relationship with the rest of the house's contents. The pickings of other peoples failed relationships are indeed rich.
My dad got around 40 pristine cabinets that were about 15 years old this way and is very happy about this.
I work in a plant that recycles most of Scotlands landfill WEEE waste (waste electronics) the working conditions are awful but the perks of the job are insane, I'm typing this on a computer made from bits I picked up at work, Core i7-6th Gen, R9-285, 24GB of ram, two SSD's all with an insane liquid cooling loop an AC wireless card and a corsair 1000W PSU, I have also picked up two 3rd gen Surface Pros with type covers, a 2013 21.5in iMac, two Apple TV's, numerous TV's, a MacBook Pro, two 3D-Printers, a CNC machine, and an X-Box One (with Controller), plus numerous other items over the seven years I have been working there, nearly all the items I have listed above didn't work initially, they needed simple work done to make them operational, Clean OS install etc, It's insane what people throw away but I'm not complaining.
My brother found a box with gold, $2000, and tons of silver dollars.
It was with a bunch of other stuff from a house. It looked like someone got evicted or died and had all their positions tossed at the dump. He said all the nice furniture was ruined.
My city has bulky item collection once a year. Basically, it's a time where you can throw away just about anything you can haul to the curb.
I was running in my neighborhood on the weekend before bulky item collection, and found an old oak card catalog from a library. Ran home, got my car, went back and picked it up. After cleaning, I now use it to hold spices in my kitchen. Bonus is that it's the perfect height for a work surface!
Fishing for Cash
A friends dad works at a water and sewer plant. Someone saw 100$ floating in the gross water and no one knew what to do because yeah it's 100$ but it's also covered in toilet water and who knows what else. I don't remember if he said anyone ever ended up grabbing it.
Lumberjacks in Training
Not a landfill worker, but one time friends and I would ride our bikes behind blockbuster and look through their trash for games/DVD's or gaming guides. We ended up finding a working gas chainsaw.
Funniest reaction was when his mom came home to her 12 year old son and friend cutting wood in the backyard, wondering "where the hell did you get a chainsaw from?!?"
Some guy wanted to dump a Commodore 64 in its original packaging, a bunch of cartridges and some other stuff. We weren't allowed to take stuff home and it was being monitored so I told the man to put it on eBay. He was delighted.
There is a guy with a YouTube channel who digs old TVs out of landfills and dumps and gets them working again. He's done several that have been sitting in a dump out in the California desert for around 40 years, and are full of mud and have weeds growing out of them.
The Zeniths always wind up working.
Wedding Bell Blues
I did a tour at a waste facility. They burn non recyclable waste. What remains is then checked on metals. There's a surprising amount of wedding rings they find apparently.
My Dad was a member of the DSNY (New York Dept. of Sanitation) for 20 years, he found some cool stuff:
- A brass fire extinguisher turned into a lamp (I still have it)
- A Nazi dagger from WWII
- Tons of foreign postage stamps (I collected as a kid)
- Old books
- radios, TVs, lots of records, 8 track tapes too.
Dad said the best time was right after Christmas, people inadvertently tossed away stuff. Mom got a nice pair of boots that way.
My friend worked at the city dump when we were in high school. A lady handed him a ps2 she was going to throw out because it didn't work. My friend sold it to me for $20 (I think at the time the ps2 was still selling for $150 or $200).
Once I got it home I opened it up, cleaned off the laser lens and it worked perfectly fine. Many long nights playing Final Fantasy XI on it.
My brother worked at a transfer station and someone once dumped dozens of those freeze dried Nutrisystem meals. He took them home because you don't turn away free food.
Not a landfill worker, but when I was in college me and a friend heard about a big screen TV that was just left on the curb. It was one of those models that was still huge and clunky, but it looked good and was like a 50 inch screen, so we got it back to his dorm room and plugged it in. It still worked. The only thing that didn't work were the speakers on the TV, but we found out if we plugged in external speakers it worked fine. Was an awesome find for college kids and we enjoyed it for the rest of the semester.
My friend's dad worked at a dump. He used to bring back perfectly working retro consoles for them. She has a few NES', a Commadore, a Vectrex, an Atari 7800, and a bunch of other miscellaneous stuff (like 5 xbox 360s). All in near perfect working order.
Bikes for Cash
Went to the dump. Dropping off random junk.. couple things were metal so we pull up to the scrap pile. Two matching mountain bikes in near perfect condition just sitting there. I'm an avid cyclist they were some fairly expensive bikes. Asked the guy working there if I could grab them he said 10$ each.. Load em in the truck.. 2x 1200$ mountain bikes for 20$ cleaned them up, tires were slighly waRped not a problem for me I have the tool/understanding to do it.. Sold them for 500$ each...
Payment in Kind
I used to do some errands for a local businessman who owned a metal recycling and car scrapyard. He would regularly get people drop off cars, collect cash and walk away. The types of people who didn't want their cars back in circulation, if you get my drift. No dead bodies or anything like that, but cars that have been used for dodgy stuff or have no insurance/tax/MOT etc and they just want rid.
Fairly often we would be required to do a "dust down" of the car, which meant donning overalls, gloves and eye goggles and getting inside and looking for anything that might cause a fire in the car crusher, so deodorant cans, lighters, fuel, paper and faulty electronics etc. Whatever we found inside, we got to keep
- Pristine box set of Star Trek Deep Space Nine
- Near mint condition Squire Stratocaster with a case, lead and spare strings (Still got it today)
- 30 piece swiss army knife
- Bowie knife
- Old cassettes from various 90s bands (Texas, Lighthouse family etc)
- Bags of casino chips
- Wedding rings & other jewellery
We made a killing off of that before I left the area for University. Wouldn't recommend the work tbf, back breaking and dangerous, no benefits, no insurance, no pay, just got to keep whatever you found. Got the occasional cash in hand for a big job.
My friend worked in the recycling department of his college for a couple years while taking classes, he would regularly find stuff worth keeping. Most noteworthy was a film canister stuffed with a couple hundred dollars in cash. More regularly he'd get nice water bottles, portable speakers, keyboards, etc. Apparently it was pretty common that when students were moving and cleaning out their dorm they'd just throw random stuff in the trash and recycling, then he and his coworkers would have to sort the stuff and could keep whatever valuables they wanted.
Gross job, but the benefits were actually pretty nice. It paid well and was well connected in the community, so once he graduated his boss gave him a recommendation at the city parks department and he immediately landed a great job.
My mum was a cleaner in the offices of a refuse station. The guy who had to watch the monitors for the crushing room somehow found coins and cash and all kinds of neat things.
He saw a box move a little weird (on a 25+y.o. technology b&w screen) and found a dumped kitten. Mum brought her home and she was my first, just for me, pet. She lived a long, loving life. Bless the eagle-eyed tiny-monitor man.
I used to drive a garbage truck, and found tons of interesting things, but in the spirit of the question, I found two things in the landfill that I kept.
One was a 20-foot section of heavy towing chain. It probably weighed 40 pounds, but only had a hook on one end. Took it home, put a second hook on it, still use it to drag logs and tow vehicles.
The other was a white ceramic elephant, about 10" tall. It was in the cover fill, the dirt that is pushed over the trash at the end of the day to keep it from blowing away and to hide it from scavengers . I was waiting to unload my truck, looked out the window and there it was. The remarkable thing was, this elephant had been put in the trash, thrown in the truck, had the compactor run on it who knows how many times, dumped out of the truck, and run over by a bulldozer multip!e times, yet was completely undamaged. It was packed into the cover fill, so it wasn't just dropped there.
Took him home, washed him off, and named him Lucky. I was going to donate him to Mr. Ed's Elephant Museum, but not long after my visit there the Museum had a big fire. Lucky might have been destroyed. (Still Lucky!)