Marketing waste

I went out this afternoon to try to get a trumpet I have fixed up. The valves don’t compress, basically (I found this in the trash a while back). He told me it probably just needed a cleaning, but that it would cost 65 bucks plus tax, and that’s not really in my budget right now.

Maybe I can clean it myself. This guy online says all it really needs is valve oil and some grease, so maybe I’ll try that.

Regardless, on the way back I saw a few things, some of which bothered me.

First off was this old laptop. Not old enough to not have XP, but old enough to have a floppy drive. I just tried it out and it still turns on, but it seems like the screen is busted. I may just give it to the computer place on St Laurent. As least they might know how to dispose or recycle the parts properly.

This rack for your bike seems to be in fine condition. I’ll probably put it on the craigslist free section.

This map is from the Ste-Therese area, which lies northwest of Laval. I’m not sure when it’s from or how exactly it works (or is meant to represent), but I do know some urban planning people so maybe they can help me out in that regard.

I found a bunch of marketing stuff on the curb on Cartier by the railroad tracks. This box was full mostly of these plastic things. I don’t really know what they are for – maybe to put shot glasses in, but that seems kind of pointless.

Another box was mostly full of these plastic posters you see at bars. They look unused. I think these might actually be useful for sealing/insulation, as the stuff is pretty strong and thick.

Also in a box were these drink trays, also unused. The cork ones are pretty nice. I took these with me, as I’m sure these can come in handy for someone.

A good load of metal shot glasses, with the company name on them. I took these as well.

Some cinnamon sugar, to be used as part of some drink. They were open but perfectly fine (and mostly full) so I took them.

Finally, some Molson M posters, probably never used.

Seeing this kind of stuff on the curb bothers me because of how it’s a total waste of resources. We extracted the base resources (in this case, the various stuff needed to make plastic, and trees for paper), created the product (and used a bunch of oil), and shipped it over a great distance, only to be used once or never used and then put out on the street to be stored underground in landfills. Not to mention the land that goes to waste when you need to build a bigger landfill. All of this in the name of possibly making a few extra bucks.

It wouldn’t be as bad if the companies involved made a concerted effort to ensure the final product wasn’t a complete waste. For example, if they just gave the trays / glasses to local bars or to second-hand stores, or maybe avoided creating mostly-useless and distinctly disposable plastic products in the first place, or made a concerted effort to recycle, repurpose, or create compostable products.

It’s all too symbolic of the times we live in, but there are things we can do. I recently read about a website called which has had some success getting different restaurants to adopt more environmentally friendly practices. Perhaps some petitions are in order?

What other ways can we encourage less wasteful practices? Beyond me finding it before it gets trashed, of course 😉

95 thoughts on “Marketing waste”

  1. You found it, my friend. Start of business of curbside waste and call it “Waste Not.” The idea is to concentrate on items not yet ready for the dump, yet useless to the holder. Promotional items are great because they’re usually given free to businesses and, more often than not, are tossed unused. Great post, congratulations on being “Freshly Pressed,” and I’ll take $5,000 up front, and 15% of all future earnings.

  2. Just stumbled upon this blog. Very cool to see the stuff you’ve found. This is one of those things where people have to break through the mental stigmas they have assigned to things, and realize their “trash” has so much more potential than just waiting for the garbage truck. There are even companies out there that repurpose this stuff for third world countries and, for example, might turn a bike and a barrel into a washing machine. Cool stuff. Keep it up.

  3. Great post. I liked it well enough to steal it for my blog as well. Great pictures and a well written dialog about how we squander resources.

  4. Great post! I am amazed at how much of a “disposable” society we live in. 30 years ago, we made things that lasted and were quality products and today things are made to throw away when we’re done. It’s amazing the amount of waste we create just in the name of efficiency. I am in broadcast news and just began blogging. I will be covering topics like these, as well as economic and business oriented stuff, check it out!
    Thanks again for the post, I really enjoyed it!

  5. Hi .. good for you for salvaging some lovely treasures! I can’t imagine anyone throwing good things like these away. You are a shining example of someone who is making changes in the world! If you don’t mind, I’ll reblog this at my blog: ttp://
    Those metal shot glasses .. wouldn’t they make great craft holders, for beads, etc. Or planters? The trays are great. Cannot imagine someone just throwing out a laptop, even it is ancient. I look forward to your future finds! A.M.

  6. Good for you! The amount of ‘stuff’ thrown out on any given day, especially by large corporations, stores, etc., is appalling. We’ve become a very wasteful society. I’m glad you chose to (re)use what you found. We should all think about doing the same (I’ve heard of people setting up community ‘Free’ tables where anyone who has something they don’t need can put it out and anyone who wants it can take it; sort of like ‘Freecycling’ but neighbourhood based). Too much ‘good stuff’ ends up in landfills!

  7. Astonishing what people throw away. And how much is being wasted – waste that the planet can scarcely afford to have. The amount of material that seems to go into marketing and packaging – all for transient attention-grabbing – seems absurd. Thank you for sharing and highlighting the point!

  8. This is an amazing and much needed post. After many months reminding my children about recycling they finally got it. Now they wash each recyclable item before placing them in the bins. Great kids. I will encourage them to read your post as a friendly reminder.

    Thank you and congrats on the Freshly Pressed.

    Please visit our family blog:


    1. That’s pretty nuts. I hope that as more people become conscious of the value of “things” stuff like that will happen less and less.

      I like your blog by the way! I try to live a minimal existence, but it’s tough when you’re in this profession, haha

  9. Many of those things seem perfectly reasonable to salvage, but the cinnamon sugar? It was open and in the garbage. Ick. I hate waste, but that’s where I would have drawn the line, personally.

    1. With these things I tend to trust my senses. If it looks good and smells good, it’s probably good! I’ve tried it, and so have a couple of friends and no troubles yet.

      Thanks for checking out the blog!

      1. Eh, fair enough, I tend to keep things way past the use by date if they pass the smell test, and I imagine there are people out there who think that’s weird too.

  10. I doubt that all of that stuff will end up being useful, though a surprising amount is — one note on the bike rack, not all racks fits on all bikes, and not all panniers will fit on all racks so something to mention when putting it on Craigslist.

    It is sad how much stuff companies make that has no apparent use. There is so much stuff that ends up in landfills that we could really do without having created in the first place.

    1. Thanks for the information on the bike rack! I may end up just dropping it off at a bike co-op, there’s a lot around here and it’s probably easier.

      What stuff specifically do you have doubts about? Just curious 🙂

      1. The shot glass holders seem like they had no real purpose — do I really need something to hold a shot glass. Some promotional stuff is like that. I’m sure that you can put anything to use if you are creative enough, but not really the best use of resources.

        1. Oh yeah, I definitely agree. I didn’t take any of those with me: they’re are a complete waste of resources, and no one really even wants them. It’s a shame that so many things are created for no practical purpose and have no reuse value.

  11. I thought the article was well written because I have also found a great deal in our two dumpsters located where we live. So, bravo on our quest to stop trashing the planet by continuing to dumpster dive whenever we get the chance!

  12. Congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Fascinating article, and a sad commentary on our “throw-away” society. In addition to the craigslist free section, there’s also

    1. I haven’t had any problems as of yet. I think the laws here states that anything on the curb or in waste bins is deemed “abandoned.” Overall, I think as long as you don’t make a mess or make too much noise, you’re fine. At the same time though, there is a cultural element to it, and I think Montreal is a particularly friendly city for garbage pickers and scavengers. You’re more likely to get in trouble in other cities or neighborhoods with a greater focus on propriety.

      Overall though, get banned from one tip and you can always move to another!

  13. It’s pretty amazing what we throw away today. I remember in college, as everyone was moving out, some of the seniors moving back across the country, people would leave the most ridiculous things, including speakers, TVs, books, and perfectly good furniture, piled high on the curb. I’m not exactly an environmentalist, but we’ve become such a consumer society that we’d rather just buy a completely new set of everything than go through the effort of taking it with us.

    1. For sure. The same thing happens here. At McGill many of the students are internationals, so when the school year ends at the end of April the trash day there is ridiculous. It’s definitely one of the best trash-picking times of the year, and one of the most competitive too as a lot of people seem to know about it.

      I understand that students may not want to take much with them, but I still think it’s best to give it to a charity. In the end, too, what they threw out was worth good money, so they miss out on that too. Maybe schools should get into the practice of organizing year end community / dorm yard sales.

  14. I am so freaking happy your post got freshly pressed, a lot of people will come into contact with it now. The funny thing is that even if all of this stuff was recycled, there is still so much waste, in my opinion. So much energy being used to clean and transport recyclables..”reduce” is an often forgotten part of the “reduce, reuse, recycle.” Shot glass holders? C’mon now.
    It’s amazing to me how much food gets thrown out. I’ve lived in homes with many people, subsisting in a large part upon food that gets tossed. From grocery stores, especially. Some are cool enough to give it to employees, since the “sell by” date is not the same as the “best by” date, and neither are usually set in stone. Others will give you trouble for taking their trash, but at what point does something become “trash”? It was on a shelf moments prior, ready to be paid for. Now it’s outside in a pile of other food, ready to be thrown out instead of eaten. I suppose its a financial issue, rather than one of making sense or being ethical. I’m glad you brought this topic some well-deserved attention! Can’t wait to see more of your blog!

    1. Absolutely, “reduce” might be the thing we most need to focus on as a culture. Waste has simply become the norm.

      I can’t blame food stores too much, as they’re just a symbol of our cultural tendency to take material goods for granted, but I also find food waste to be the most frustrating. For instance, the other day I saw a whole box of avocados on the curb. They were still good, but needed to be used soon. Regardless, we spent all this time (and probably pesticides, fertilizers, etc) growing these avocados, shipped them up to Canada (lots of CO2 emissions there), and then proceed to let it go to waste and fill up landfill space (and use a bunch more CO2 to ship it to the landfill).

      Something needs to be done to improve the system on many different levels. I plan on diving into these ideas more by adding an “ideas for change” page on my blog. I’ll hopefully get some ideas up today.

      Thanks for checking out the blog! Glad you like it 🙂

      1. That would be really cool- people have a LOT of power when we can come together. Some stores, for example, will donate their food to a shelter as long as someone comes and picks it up at a pre-determined time, and stuff like that. It’s just a matter of getting the planning done and legalities checked and stuff like that. Good for you!

  15. Great post and great blog. It’s crazy how much good stuff people throw away. Right now my ipad “table” is something I “found” in an alley one Sunday morning. Free– and now really cute after a quick paint job.

  16. We are keeping a big barrel in our garden and collecting all the organic waste (vegetables, fruit skins, seeds, used tea bags etc…) inside. When they are mixed with rain water, it becomes rich in minerals, enough to feed the dry and dead soil in our garden. When the barrel is full with water and organic waste stuff, we pour it to the area where we want to grow our paprikas, tomatoes and such…
    I’ve done the same in England, in Poland and almost everywhere I lived…
    If you don’t have a garden, you can still collect the organic wastes in zipped nylon bags and throw the waste in suitable places while you’re driving to work, cycling to somewhere…
    If only you really want to do this, you can do in every city…

    1. That’s a really good idea. I don’t have a back yard here, but it would be good to have these near community gardens and such. There are a few composters and such, but this is a different idea and pretty useful in it’s own way. I might put this in a section I’d like to make called “Ideas to reduce waste.”

      Currently, I do sometimes throw food waste in places that are out of the way and where it won’t effect people’s day to day lives. In a recent post “Just call me Johnny Appleseed,” I found a bunch of apples in a bag and proceeded to chuck a bunch into an empty waste area. Hopefully, in 20 years or so, there’ll be a bunch of apples trees there.

      1. In my country people are quite late to notice such easy waste reducing methods, but recently a group of sensitive people started publishing a magazine called EKO-IQ. I find this magazine like a fresh breath for earth. Unfortunately, it is only in Turkish at the moment.
        I look forwards to reading the posts under “Ideas to reduce waste” by you.


  17. Wow! somebody’s garbage is somebody’s ‘great find’. In my country we still have the ‘recycle man’ going around the houses. He takes away all things that can be recycled like paper, glass, aluminium, iron, plastic bottles and other things and pays us for that. the stuff is then sold to bigger shops which then make way to the various industries to be used again. In fact, i keep aside the ‘recycle money’ and at the end of the year donate that for a cause. feels good…:)

    1. That’s actually a really good idea. I’m trying to think of ideas to make the garbage system here work better, and this idea has a lot of potential. Can I ask what country you’re from?

      1. I’m from India..:) not really a role model for garbage disposal but some things work well and are part of everyday life like the ‘recycle man’.

    2. We still have the recycle-men walking from street to street the whole day. Every morning he starts with an empty 3 wheeled carrier and if you pay attention to this carrier in the evening, you even notice how many useful things you find inside…
      I like this tradition in my country. 🙂

  18. Good post! We have to do better with the environment. There needs to be a lot more education as I really believe people have no idea what they are doing to the earth. Just with water bottles and packaging alone. Thanks for posting.

  19. Nice to find stuff so close to where you live. Another great place to look is in the dumpster after a trade show. If you live near a mall and they are building a new store in it the old stuff will be in the dumpster. I used to build stores all over the country and you can’t imagine the money that was thrown out, I could only collect and keep so much of it. From lighting fixtures to glass cabinets, even the copper wiring is worth money. When people stopped and ask if they could search through the dumpster I always told them yes, as long as the mall didn’t have a problem with it and most don’t.

    The laptop, try and connect it to an external monitor, almost all of my laptops are used as desktops.

  20. I totally agree. Another area of huge waste (and irritation!) is the excess packaging of just about everything. It’s so pervasive that we can no longer just avoid those products that are over-packaged. I do when I can, but that’s not often anymore. Congrats of FP. Keep up the good content.

  21. Oh, wow…I bet someone can just go around picking up “garbage” and selling them online! The business that’s lost in the waste…

  22. Argh! It drives me crazy when I see stuff like that being tossed out. I mean, really — couldn’t they at least donate the shot glasses and stuff to Goodwill? Or a bunch of college students?

  23. I often get things from the bin area of my block of flats youll be surprised what people throw out sometimes. I got a nice white desk for free before and i got a bag full of books as well I gave those to a charity shop

  24. Absolutely thoughtful and relevant. Wish more people in the world become conscious before we get drowned in a mountain of waste. There seems to be a (misguided) belief in some quarters that greater consumption (and greater waste as a result) leads to economic nirvana!!

  25. Mankind is earth’s biggest predator. We claim, we waste, we pollute, we destroy.

    The only way, imho, to make mankind treat her hostess better is by ‘brainwashing’ kids at an early age.

    Instead of focusing on the IQ so much (what good has THAT done to the world?!) the EQ should be fed better.

    Empathy is what people need to develop, and with that will come a better understanding in order to stop you from noticing trash like that. 😉 It simply never, ever helps to point fingers and exclaim ‘how can they do that?!’ which is what most of us do. At least you asked a question… ‘What other ways…?’

  26. Reblogged this on sserrat and commented:
    La basura de uno es el tesoro de otros, pero es desagradable la idea de que la primera persona que adquirió estos productos no le diera buen uso y al final diera a lugar “a reciclar se ha dicho”. Por acá en México, hay mucha gente que se mete en los recolectores de basura, para llevarlo a vender, bien por ellos. Si es esa la razón en la uno saca su basura para que otro se la lleve y gane dinero, bien, pero hay que considerar que en ocasiones suceden contratiempos como el clima y destruye entonces lo que perfectamente se puede reciclar. Sé que el articulo esta en Inglés, pero la sola fotografía lo dice todo. Tienen duda de algo, pregunten. Y a reciclar entonces.

  27. They say that the garbage of some is in fact the treasure of others, but still it is incredible that people don’t get the idea of enviroment.

    Keep it up!!!!!!

  28. Excellent post. This bothers me every trash day as well. People should be more willing to donate items to companies like Purple Heart, who make it so easy that they actually come to your door. How lazy can people be? I love this post. Congrats.

  29. When I pick up litter along the road, I always find things to use. Once I found a simple pole to jab in the ground. I brought it home and stood it next to the baby tree I’d planted because a bird kept sitting on the top of the tree and pooping, the poop was terrible for the tree, but now the bird sits on the pole which stands a few inches higher than the tree.

  30. Good for you! I fully agree with what you said, “a total waste of resources,” but I don’t think I would have stopped and looked through the items if I saw a large pile of “trash” on a curb. Good for you, you did something about it, awesome! Also, by writing about it you are hopefully influencing others to be conscious when getting rid of items. I hate to throw things away, my solution is giving it to a local thrift store in the hopes that someone else will purchase them and help the organization. Recycle- Reduce-Reuse (or something like this).

  31. That’s a lot of waste. Not all in one street I hope?
    How’s the recycling at your place? Is it easy to do? Or does no-one pay any attention to it?

    1. Not all of that stuff was on the same street, but all that marketing stuff was.

      Recycling’s easy enough to do, but a lot of people still don’t see the value in it. Resources are really taken for granted – understandable considering how relatively wealthy North America has been for a while (even in recession times).

      1. Yeah we are still lucky. But I think the income gap is also increasing and even in ‘rich’ countries there are many people who aren’t as lucky and have many problems.
        But I think as long as awareness is raised people will start to recycle more. And maybe it will become a habit.

      1. I don’t know if they accept contributions but I know that the editors might be open to hiring a great sustainable writer!

  32. Our city council, in a fitful reaction to a neighborhood snit, made it illegal to go through the recycling bins at curbside without the owners’ permission.
    Good thing I got all the beer bottles I needed before that, back in my homebrewing days.

  33. I am so thrilled that this was Freshly Pressed! What a wonderfully thoughtful post. It’s so refreshing to read about someone that cares about the world we live in and looks out for it and the people who live in it! Well done!

    1. There’s definitely less great stuff in poorer neighborhoods. I find I have the best luck in middle-class to upper middle-class neighborhoods.

  34. When are we going to revert back to the Native American philosophy where we use everything and don’t waste a thing? Recycling and garbage are a huge topic to tackle and we as a world need to get this straight soon!

    1. Yup. The whole system needs a big overhaul, really. I plan on starting another blog (a bit more “big concept”) about how to reduce waste and make the system work a bit better. I’ll post about it when it’s operational.

    1. Still around, needs lubrication or might just be broken, who knows. I’m getting sort of sick of looking at it actually, do you want it?

        1. Cool, maybe you can get it working. Apparently it’s a cheap trumpet but a trumpet’s a trumpet. I should be having a yard sale soon, perhaps this weekend if you want to come by

      1. do you have any plans to be at the anarchist bookfair next weekend? (may 25-26)?

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