In rural Alberta there is a small town called Mirror. When someone refers to shopping at the Mirror mall, they are talking about the waste transfer station just outside town. There really is nowhere to go shopping In Mirror except the general store or the hardware store. If you want a good bicycle for a great price [free], Mirror mall is your best bet.

Oh, your a dumpster diver

Many people laugh at me when I tell them I found a particular item at “the dump”, like my dremil with case and accessories included. If I say ” I got it at WMC for 100% off!” they just look stunned. They don’t get it until I explain that WMC, Waste Management Canada Ltd. is really a company that provides garbage bins for the collection of “waste”.  I find perfectly good items in these bins.

I believe in waste reduction or waste elimination. Nothing depresses me faster than going to a landfill site. Landfill sites, or dumps, stand for the exact opposite of my beliefs. At the same time I look forward to the opportunity to find things that I need whenever I’m forced to visit the county landfill. I think of it as an exchange program.  Reduce the waste, and save a pile of money in doing so.

A trip to my local landfill often finds me dragging something home. I have gotten very smart at how I shop at landfill sites. I make a list of what I need. I take tools to remove the items attached to things I don’t want. I make sure I have safety gear – steel toed and steel shank boots are a good idea, but gloves are a must.

Take Directly from store to dump

Our throw-away society has become so cavalier about disposing of yesterdays items and things with minor flaws that it’s quite possible to make a wish list of items you need and find most of them at a landfill site. Want proof? Here is a sample journal of my dump shopping between May 1 and June 3 on three separate visits to the county landfill:

  • I planted 150 green ash trees on my property and needed garden hose to reach the north edge of my property to water them. that week I went to the landfill and dropped of kitchen trash. I found: 4 hoses, one appeared brand new except for the broken connector. I Spent $15 at Peavymart Ltd. on hose connector replacements and 15 minutes of time to fix 100 feet of hose.
  • The second week after planting trees, I went to the landfill and dropped off kitchen trash. Another 2 hoses along with new ski bindings – in box with price tag of $119.99 ( I had my choice of sizes to choose from). Found steel casters for my panel cart but had to pull out my cordless impact driver to un-bolt them from a bent trolley. Value around $30.
  • Last week I took broken canisters and kitchen trash to the landfill. found more hose – mission accomplished. I now have enough hose to reach across 2 acres to my – get this – free trees.

Solutions

So, if the landfills did end, what would I do for all my free shopping?  Recently the city of Red Deer AB put on a “Kick it To The Curb” weekend.  The event was discribed like this:

One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.So don’t put your unwanted items in the garbage. Set them out on thecurb for Kick it to the Curb Weekend.

 They offered signs in pdf fromat for people to print and mark items.  The event was advertised, but unfortunately I was busy and could not cruise around Red Deer looking for items on my shopping list.  From what I heard on the radio the following week, the event was not very popular.  Maybe people are too used to kicking stuff to the landfill.

The town of Torrington has an annual garage sale.  Everyone in the town is encouraged to have their own garage/lawn sale.  The event runs every May long weekend.  I have attended in the past and it’s well worth checking out.

Change the laws.  Right now it is illegal to take stuff out of a dumpster.  Once refuse is placed in the container, it becomes the property of the person/company that owns the container.  Most landfills do not allow “picking” from the refuse, claiming liability issues.  There are now some very good waste transfer stations that help you sort your garbage to maximize recycling efforts.  At one station I saw a line-up of lawn mowers that had been neatly diverted for recycling, so I asked the attendant if I could take one.  “No” was the answer. Maybe they were afraid I’d cut my grass and they would be liable for damages.