Cruisin’ the Dump

You can find unexpected treasures at your local landfill — just follow some simple, common-sense rules.

| February/March 2011

Because we recycle and put our vegetable waste in a compost pile, we don’t generate enough trash to hire a weekly garbage service. Every four to six weeks, we load up our modest collection of refuse and haul it to the county landfill.

After unloading and paying, we circle back through the junk piles, scouting for useful items. I confess I was squeamish about it at first, but I’ve learned that a keen eye and an attitude of resourcefulness can be rewarding. People often discard things without considering the possibility of simple repairs.

On a recent trip, my husband found a large gas can. Except for a missing lid, it was in good condition. We purchased a new lid and gasket at a farm and ranch store for $6.28. On the same shelf, the new gas cans were priced at $49.

Landfills have long been happy hunting grounds for antique restorers, seekers of free building materials and artists who create sculptures from found objects. Our local facility designates special areas for metal, wood, bicycles, gas grills and lawn mowers.

Here are some common-sense precautions for safe treasure hunting:

  • Before browsing, check in with the operators of the landfill. Let them know your intentions, and ask about the rules.
  • Pay special attention to safety guidelines, such as “don’t climb on the piles.” Confine your search to the perimeters of the mounds, where items are within easy reach.
  • Wear leather work gloves. Watch out for nails and sharp edges, as they’re hazardous to your tires as well as you.

Here in western Colorado, our landfill offers an extra bonus: gorgeous scenery!

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