Dumpster Diving

I’m just a garbage man, but one with class.

Robert Rauschenberg

My husband, Steve, has always been good at making things out of trash. I’ve talked about how he encouraged me to use t-shirt remnants rather than throw them into the garbage to become landfill.

Steve has found and salvaged everything from a full bottle of vintage wine to a finely made chest of drawers. He seems to have a special infinity for working lamps and clocks.

Coffee Filters

Coffee Filters by Root

Steve saves all kinds of household items and presently he is obsessed with coffee filters and tea bags. It’s amazing how much coffee and tea we drink!

Steve is in good company. The most famous assemblage artist was Robert Rauschenberg. He got his start when he was a poor construction worker in Europe making art during his free time from found trash. In New York, he started each day walking around the neighborhood until he found trashed objects. His works became known as Combines.

I was always a little offended by Rauschenberg’s piece called Bed (1955). How could anyone do that to an antique log cabin quilt? Today those quilts are called cutters and I also have entered the realm of altering quilts into art pieces.

In a new documentary: I Love Trash, two friends agree to spend no money and live from trash collections for three months. They begin with a large empty apartment, the clothes they are wearing and a flashlight. It is amazing to see how well they do on discards found through their dumpster diving.

ScapeGoat by Silk/Golomb

ScapeGoat by Silk/Golomb

In Pennsylvania, dumpster diving is not illegal unless the dumpster is locked or marked with a no trespassing warning, however, the recovery of other people’s documents such as credit card statements and bank information through the trash is illegal.

If dumping and/or dumpster diving don’t appeal to you, try the Freecycle Network™, a grassroots nonprofit movement of people who are keeping usable goods from the landfills by giving and getting free stuff.

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