In four hours we find over $500 in books college students threw away in my annual dumpster diving book mission.
I’m posting this today for a reason.
While the college next to my house got out last week, most colleges are having finals this week. And for most colleges, finals ended yesterday. And for most dorms, all students have to be out today.
What this means for you: Everything imaginable is sitting for free behind every dorm in the country right now. Including books. Especially books.
Today is the single biggest dumpster diving day of the year, period.
Here’s me last week:
The college next to my house gets out earlier than most
I wait for this day all year, and I knew the schedule. It’s basically the same at every school, everywhere.
Finals happen Monday through Thursday.
Some students have their last finals Thursday, some Wednesday, some Tuesday, or some just on Monday.
Whenever they’re done, students go insane, throw out everything they own, and drive into the sunset. Like clockwork.
That’s where I come in.
The dumpster book heist plan
My friend and I set out on two dumpster excursions: Wednesday evening, and Thursday late-night.
In total, we hit approximately 10 dorms.
If you want to cash in on this, our methodology was very simple
- Choose your targets
Identify student dorms (Google school name + “student housing”) and map your course.
2. Choose your timing
The best time is going to be Friday – preferably day, but night will work. There’s the risk (as with the school next to my house) of dumpsters getting emptied sometime Friday, so daytime is ideal. Most moving out is done by Thursday night, with students having to be completely out of the dorms sometime Friday.
So what you’re really exploiting here is dorm move-out dates. Get that date, and you’re earned yourself a windfall of free stuff.
3. Choose your comfort zone
Bottom line: The more aggressive you’re willing to be, the more you’ll find (and make).
The most skittish approach: Go only at night (few witnesses), and only search recycling bins (little mess, little effort).
The most aggressive (my approach): Get in every dumpster, tear through every bag, and proceed without regard for witnesses (they’re just jealous).
Why would college students throw away good books?
Though that explained less than half the books we found. Most were so well ranked, and so awesome, there was only one explanation for taking them to the dumpster instead of the college bookstore: The dumpster was closer.
Weirdest find of this campaign
After 10 dorms, we found a lot of weird stuff, most of it not books. My favorite: An unopened Priority Mail box, sent from a female suitor to an unresponsive dorm resident (“James”).
Yes, we opened it. (Was it a federal crime? I’m considering all trash public domain. Criminal lawyers weigh in below.) It contained homemade cookies and a love letter.
Is there any bigger Casanova than the man who gets a love package, and doesn’t even open it?
There’s way more than books in there
This is supposed to be a case study on unconventional book sourcing, but its very tempting to talk about everything else we found:
- Clothes (my friend sold a bunch to Buffalo Exchange).
- Personal journals.
- Food. Lots of unopened food.
…and everything else imaginable. But we’re getting off topic.
What did I learn?
I thought I knew it all, but there was one realization: How much better the recycling bins were for books than the dumpsters themselves. Most of the books I found were in the recycle bins. Somehow, I’d always overlooked those.
The final haul
Here it is:
(The item on top is a box containing Windows 7. Selling for $70 on
Dorms visited: Approximately 10.
Hours spent: 4.
Cops who watched us dumpster diving and said nothing: 2 (dumpster diving has gone mainstream, & is seemingly no longer stigmatized).
Resellable non-book items found: Several, including a sealed electric toothbrush.
Profitable books found: 23
Average sales rank: 417,617 (the listing software randomly decided to not display this, so I did it by hand)
Total estimated payout: $581.77
Hourly earnings: $145 / hour.
Why I’m posting this article today
Because odds are, the school near your house had finals this week (or next), and it’s dumpster pandemonium right now – everything imaginable is yours for the taking.
Whatever you’re doing tonight: Cancel it. There’s gold out there, waiting for you, right now.
Dumpsters don’t dive themselves.