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New site makes dumpster diving civilized & organized

Posted by Derek Flack / March 20, 2013

Trashswag TorontoThere's treasure to be found on Toronto streets. Whether it be a miraculously bedbug free couch at the side of the road or a relatively sturdy bookshelf or table, people throw out all sorts of good shit. The problem, of course, is finding it. How does one make the hunt for such street-side treasures more than a matter of pure chance? The answer's actually pretty simple: you leverage the power of the crowd.

Created by Gavin Cameron, Trashswag is a website and affiliated mobile app built around a crowdsourced map that tracks salvageable trash on the streets of Toronto. Having done some work with architectural salvage in the past, the usefulness of a centralized tracking system became clear rather naturally. "I'm friends with some artists in the city and what was happening is that we would be texting each other picture messages of stuff along with the address or intersection," he explains. "Once you start keeping an eye out you become aware of how much is actually left out - the streets are paved with gold!"

How does it work? Somewhat similarly to a site like SeeClickFix, users report sightings of useful items, which are then plotted on a map. The site is also built to send push notifications to users when trash-as-treasure is reported in their vicinity. "The platform also has the ability to receive reports via email (reports@trashswag.com), via the form on the site, by tweeting a find using #trashswag and, hopefully soon, via text message," Cameron tells me. There's also a mobile app. "If someone downloads the free Ushahidi app on iOS or Android, they can submit reports via that app once they sync the app with the www.trashswag.com URL (downloaders are prompted to enter a URL when they open for the first time)."

As for the type of stuff you can expect to be reported, Cameron wants to ensure that the site features items that are a level above what might be characterized as junk. "I'm trying to maintain a certain level of quality of stuff - solid wood furniture worthy of restoration, as opposed to crappy manufactured wood based on glue. Dumpsters and construction sites in the downtown core are "fertile" ground for finds - the old buildings, when being remodelled, provide old growth woods from the 19th and 20th centuries."

In other words, no IKEA stuff guys. But lots of "gold" for all the DIY types out there.



alan / March 20, 2013 at 12:42 pm
what's wrong with ikea stuff ????
Chris West / March 20, 2013 at 01:31 pm
Some of this stuff doesn't look like trash but looks like trashy stuff stored outside of houses/businesses.

For instance this wood leaning up in front of somebody's house:
Chris West / March 20, 2013 at 01:34 pm
Totally reminds me of that one Trailer Park Boys episode. It's not stealing, its garbage!

John replying to a comment from alan / March 20, 2013 at 02:33 pm
Ikea stuff is garbage, if you don't know that I feel bad for you.
trashless / March 20, 2013 at 02:35 pm
I'm sure there are dumper-divers out there who aren't intolerably self-congratulating and insensitive to the context of actual poverty. I just haven't personally met any.
the lemur replying to a comment from alan / March 20, 2013 at 02:49 pm
It falls under the category of 'manufactured wood based on glue', I guess. Some of it is actually not bad (including non-wood items), but I would say that if IKEA stuff is being thrown out, it's because it's beyond saving ... although I did pick up a perfectly sound chair and people seem to throw out their shoe racks a lot.
nardl blarn replying to a comment from alan / March 20, 2013 at 03:10 pm
Alan, I know that comment in the blog post comes across as unbearably smug. I think they are getting at the fact that ikea items are often hollow and when they break they really break. You can't normally sand down and refinish something from ikea for example.
Bed bug sufferer / March 20, 2013 at 04:00 pm
Just don't do it. After six months of finally eliminating bed bugs from my residence, I would pass on any belongings left on the side of the street. Renting in Toronto means that you will have a bad run in with bed bugs. Nobody talks about it, but it is epidemic in this city. Trust me the free ikea table isn't worth the trouble or sleepless nights.
Steven / March 20, 2013 at 05:42 pm
Forget Ikea. It's a monkee zoo.
Chuck It / March 20, 2013 at 07:25 pm
Don't you mean hipster diving? Who the fuck else would go online for this? Many people grabbing stuff off the street don't have the money to purchase new, never mind having a $400 smart phone with a $100+ a month plan. Poverty is not a trend, it's real. This idea is bound for the dumpster itself!
Lucia / November 2, 2013 at 11:55 am
I've recently made a short video about dumpster diving that I thought some of you might like. It's for a competition and every view gets me a vote, so I'd really appreciate it if you found the time to watch and maybe share it! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6djV20NnJ8o&;feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PLYT7vD5He2VAVTw7z78cmU_n3UjTpLzwz
Other Cities: Montreal