Anyone Else Put Out The Kerbside Collection And Find It Tomorrow On Someone Else’s Lawn?

“Take the broken household goods in my car down to the rubbish tip / Come back with more junk that I came down with.”

- paraphrasing a song by 90s comedy group Found Objects.

It can’t just be my suburb that has people who check out the abandoned hard rubbish collection, take their pickings, realise why they’ve been discarded and either:

a) put it back on my lawn

b) put it on their lawn to be collected.

only for the cycle to begin again.

The council says they will collect:

* Whitegoods
* Household Furniture
* Steel
* Metals
* Carpet
* Scrap Timber
* Mattresses
* General Junk

My estimate is that about 70% of what is put out on the lawn actually makes it to the council tip. The rest just does a merry circuit around the suburban lawns until people are either happy with what they’ve scavenged or found someone’s front verge to dump it on.

Sure, some people troll around the suburbs, with their car (and maybe their kids in tow), ready to find some good pickings that they do god-knows-what-with… but I’m not one of them. Firstly, it’s illegal, as it’s swiping things to be collected for the council and not strictly like those ‘Please Take – Free’ signed goods. I also know the kind of rubbish I put out and I sincerely doubt that there’s that much treasure in the trash to be found. I also already have too many things like bookcases and filing cabinets filling my home, and if I get another recliner for reading in, it’s going to be like this Not The Nine O’Clock News skit but with Poäng chairs.

Today I put out on my lawn:

* A broken chair (irreparably damaged – if you sit on this chair, you will find yourself rapidly listing to the left and then catapulted onto the floor over the snapped armrest);
* A desk (with no space for legs to tuck under, no drawer on the right-hand side and a few scratches on top);
* A broken drawer, from the previously-mentioned desk and
* A red mattress from a futon that kind of exploded a year or so ago. The mattress itself has stuffing coming out (the kitten decided it would be a great scratching post / hidey-hole from all the other cats).

This evening, I discovered only:

* A broken drawer.

Down the road, however, is a long drag mark on the road from… the desk? I think. There’s also a suspiciously familiar-looking mattress on someone else’s lawn, tucked behind a broken bookcase. There’s a little stuffing left behind from the mattress. The chair could have just been wheeled along quite fine, but I live on a hill, so I hope that some local children didn’t decide to take it for a ride.

Last year I put out another (cat-ruined) mattress and it disappeared for a day and then suddenly reappeared on my lawn – they must have realised why it wasn’t wanted and decided to drag it back. Why anyone would want bits of broken futon, however, is beyond me.

Tomorrow I’m putting out the broken filing cabinet. I’m wondering if I should alert the council, just so they actually have a collecting job to do in a few days time, rather than driving around empty streets with scuff-marks on all the verges and neighbours hurriedly wedging in an abandoned refrigerator into their back yards.

About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.

  • Lewis

    You posted a link to dumpster divers and I agree that if there’s people who need goods that aren’t wanted anymore that they should be made available. I’m not sure that illegally taking things off people’s front lawn — do they do that with trash cans? — is the right thing to do.

  • ‘Tis Himself, OM

    Why anyone would want bits of broken futon, however, is beyond me.

    Obviously you have no imagination. There’s lots of things to do with a broken futon like…well…there’s tons of things…ah um…could I get back to you later on the uses of a broken futon? I think my microwave just exploded.

    • Lewis

      Save it! Someone might have a use for that broken microwave…….

  • DuWayne


    We have similar junk collection here on an annual basis. When I was a kid I *loved* the annual collection because I could find all sorts of great treasures. Among them: a broken multi-deck tape player that I managed to fix; assorted broken speakers that I managed to condense into several functional sets of stereo speakers over the years; many, many bits of wood furniture that I would disassemble for materials to make stuff with (broken bits would generally become firewood); various bits of junk that could be incorporated into odd creations; all sorts of electronics to be used for parts (I repaired a lot of things – sometimes things that didn’t come out of junk piles originally).

    I also have numerous friends who make artwork and do the same things I did as a kid with junk from such piles. My kids would pick up all the junk they find if I would let them – as it stands, what they do pick up they generally incorporate into cool projects.

    It is surprising the cool shit that can come from junk pile collections. Though it is also amazing what actually happens to some of that stuff. I know a few people who are pathological junk collectors, including a friend who obsessively visits the Michigan State University salvage to buy things that end up adding to the piles in the yard (he has acreage) or the piles in his home (he has trails through his house, the rest being full of junk) or the piles in his two pole barns and garage.

    Working for a landlord who buys properties for cash, fixes them and rents them, I ended up helping empty two houses – the newer built by the owner when he filled the first (he was a physicist who retired from JPL to become a uni professor) completely. He obsessively bought multiples of a lot of items he never used in the first place, so he would have spare parts to repair them. Selling the crap in the houses at auction, my employer at the time more than quadrupled what he actually paid for the property in the first place. Even so, we ended up dumping more than three hundred cubic yards of waste – some of it brand new items that were crushed by the piles, most of it “treasures” he had collected from dumpsters and waste collections. When he died, there was a trail through the house into his kitchen – where he had a recliner and just enough space to get at the stove and a few shelves. There was also a tight trail to the half bath just off the kitchen, where he stored his clothes and sponge bathed infrequently.

  • JLaughlin

    I discovered last summer, when I’d put out a bunch of junk (the municipality will pick up such stuff within 5 business days) that there’s actually a guy who goes around every garbage day in a truck to grab stuff presumably for salvage, hence $, white goods, small appliances, etc. which is to say I think your figure of 70% might be a little high around these parts. (BTW, I was amused on that occasion to watch a toilet go into a compacting garbage truck and shatter into a million little pieces.)

    • Kylie Sturgess

      I’m clearly exaggerating – but I have seen a odd game of ‘musical chairs’ (broken chair?) go on around kerbside collections. I’m all for recycling (in fact, some schools ask for broken or leftover things to use in the art department) but it’s weird to see things pop up after you know you saw it elsewhere.