(Photo: Matt Malone/LinkedIn)
One man’s trash may be another man’s treasure, but that holds true for Matt Malone much more than most people.
In an extensive profile piece in Wired, Malone reveals how he spends much of his free time rummaging through retailer dumpsters around Austin, Texas, and regularly coming up with pristine products he then resells for a hefty profit.
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And it’s all entirely legal. At least if you follow the rules, which basically comes down to not dumpster diving in areas clearly marked as private property or otherwise restricted areas.
Malone, 37, already has a full-time career and six-figure salary as an IT security specialist but estimates that if he pursued a full-time professional dumpster diving career he’d make $600,000 per year.
(Photo: A dumpster diver at work in London)
Those numbers are based on an average profit of $2,500 from each of his nightly diving forays across Austin. Malone said it’s so lucrative he’s considered doing it full-time but enjoys his actual work too much to quit.
“I’m not going to walk away from those kinds of experiences,” he told Wired. “But at the same time I don’t want to give up the treasure-hunt thrill I get from dumpster diving.”
Even with just dumpster diving part-time, Malone says his goal is to make $250,000 this year just from foraging alone.
His biggest finds tend to be electronics items that a customer opened, returned and the store then threw out.
Malone started out building custom-made electronics out of parts he found behind stores like Office Max, Best Buy and Home Depot, but when he held a yard sale to clear out his rapidly expanding collection, people flocked to smaller items like printer cartridges. At the end of the day, he had pocketed more than $3,000, he told Wired. “And that was when I realized, ‘This has the potential to be something.’”
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Maybe there’s something about Texas. After all, Malone isn’t the only Lone Star State professional dumpster diver. Back in 2011, CBS profiled Fort Worth resident Jeff Ferrell who regularly finds gems like the Neiman Marcus necklace he gave his wife for Christmas that was scooped from the bottom of a trash bin. Ferrell, a Texas Christian University professor, says he donates most of his findings to local charities.
There are obvious safety concerns. With the increased use of powerful and dangerous trash compactors, nobody should just be jumping into dumpsters in search of a discarded PlayStation or piece of patio furniture. The National Institutes of Health also warns that dumpster diving carries other health risks, including getting cut from glass and other refuse or being exposed to dangerous bacteria.
Still, if you’ve got the time and the willingness to do things the right way, Malone’s story shows there’s enough treasure tucked away in our collective trash to line industrious pockets with gold.
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