Challenge: Trash Backwards from the Streets

copper bracelet from a Safeway parking lot

by Rebecca Rockefeller
We have a new challenge for you: Look around you this week as you go about your daily business and see what useful items you can find on the ground. We have prizes for two participants, but we’ll all be winners in ways that really matter.
Why do we want you to pick things up off the street?
  • It’s fun. You’ll feel good.
  • It will save you money.
  • It means less production of new items whenever we reuse what we’ve already got.
  • It means less wayward plastic finding its way into our oceans via our watersheds.
  • It’s part of a grand tradition of reuse that some of our greatest minds have enjoyed.
  • Find what you can, take a photo, pick it up, bring it home, use it.
  • Share your finds in the comments below or on our Facebook wall.
  • Things labeled as “Free” don’t count. Only wild trash is eligible for this challenge.

    No fair using freebies – Only wild trash counts for this challenge

We have two DVD copies of the amusing and inspirational documentary Your Environmental Road Trip; one for the person who rescues the most items for reuse, and the other for the person with the most pleasantly surprising find – To be eligible for this giveaway, you’ll need to comment below and post a photo or video of your find(s) to our Facebook page. You’ll also need to promise to find a good home for the film when you’re ready to pass it along – No DVDs should enter the waste stream because of our giveaway. We’ll choose our winners on Monday, May 21st, 2012 – Enter as often as you’d like until then.
Ready, set, go! What can you find?

How many golf balls will you find? These kids found 756 along their road one morning.

Here’s a popular post republished with permission from Rock Farmer to inspire you to take action:
The other day, we needed a paper clip for a packet of school forms. We searched through the jam-packed kitchen drawer that serves as our all-purpose storage area for anything we can cram in there, to no avail. We found a lot of things – the dogs’ vaccination tags, AAA batteries, a compass, a light stick, a headless toy deer, to-go menus for restaurants that we never eat at – but not a single paper clip.

“Hey!” shouted my nine-year old daughter, “We just need to go to the parking lot and look for one!”

And sure enough, when we stopped by the large grocery parking lot later that day, we found a metal paper clip. Not just any paper clip; this one was more than fully functional, it even had some decorative etching – A fancy paper clip.

New to us: an Angry Bird toy found in a ditch

And I realized that, in my kids’ minds, the first stop for any necessary or desired item is not a store. We grow a lot of our produce in small raised beds, we have our back yard hens for eggs, and we get almost everything else through the barter potlucks or the generosity of friends. We forage in local woods and marshes for mushrooms and nettles and other wild greens. The girls’ favorite toys at the moment are the ones they rescued during our volunteer hours at the dumpster for our local Rotary Auction. And now we get our office supplies from local parking lots.

It’s a bad news/good news sort of thing:

(BAD) We’ve reached this point where there is so much durable waste in our environment, not just corralled in landfills or recycling centers, that (GOOD) you can find almost everything you need, if you only look. Our earth now supplies not just food and shelter, but modern office supplies and more.

My kids will be the first to tell you that shopping this way is a lot more fun than any trip to the store – It’s a free treasure hunt, complete with the rush of adrenaline that comes with the thrill of discovery.  Onward, parking lot foragers and dumpster divers!

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Categories: Reduce Your Use, Repurpose and Reuse, Trash Pile - All Our Stuff


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4 Comments on “Challenge: Trash Backwards from the Streets”

  1. shannonmeduh
    May 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    I like to pick up glass bottles and broken glass anywhere i see them to use in mosaics. It’s really neat to see all the beautiful colors and unique pieces of glass and imagine what they could look like in a mosaic. I’m still working on creating any really artistic pieces though, but it is a fun hobby 🙂

    • Rebecca Rockefeller
      May 15, 2012 at 5:03 pm #

      Great reuse, Shannon! Do you have photos of your mosaics that we could share in a blog post? We’d love to see your work!

  2. Catherine
    May 21, 2012 at 2:02 pm #

    Our daily dog walk takes us through an elementary school and local park. We constantly collect the cans and plastic bottles and put them in our recycling. We also carry an extra bag to pick up what’s left behind. So, for the last week, I’m posting a photo of the “found” items (absent the yucky stuff) – which are someones lost treasures. We usually put them on a wall to see if anyone reclaims them, but after a couple days, when they remain, we collect and disperse to crafts, recycling or the trash bin.


  1. Art App Powered by Trash Backwards « Trash Backwards - December 5, 2012

    […] on a given journey into the wilds. We stumble upon plastics by the shore, our roadside ditches, on sidewalks, on local trails, in National Parks, in our chicken yard, in the organic compost delivered by […]

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