Fendi bags, jewellery and cash: 30-year-old Leonardo Urbano makes $100,000 a year selling trash in Sydney

Lee Ying Shan
CNBC
Leonardo Urbano made $100,000 selling thrown-out goods.
Leonardo Urbano made $100,000 selling thrown-out goods. Credit: Instagram/ @thetrashlawyer

They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

Indeed, Leonardo Urbano made as much as $100,000 last year rummaging through rubbish piles in Sydney for hidden gems and selling them.

His loot included Fendi bags, coffee machines, gold jewellery and wads of cash, among other items.

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Every morning after breakfast, Mr Urbano would hop on a bicycle or in a car, and scour the streets of Sydney for rubbish piles, with every day bringing a different surprise.

“You could see mountains of stuff — like literally, mountains. And that’s when I find most of the stuff,” said Mr Urbano.

“That’s where the big items will be, like fridges and wardrobes and couches,” he marvelled.

Across the country, many local councils offer free rubbish pick-up services twice a year or more for residents.

That’s when people usually discard furniture and bulkier goods on the streets, destined for landfills.

Other common finds are computers, Dyson vacuum cleaners and television sets, usually still in good condition, said the 30-year-old.

Mr Urbano said households with more spending power could be discarding older gadgets to make space for a newer model, even if they are still in working condition.

“When they want a new gadget, they buy a new one and they throw away the old just because the battery may not be as good anymore,” he said. Other times, his finds might need a bit of cleaning and minor repair work.

He brings his curbside finds back to his home, selects a few pieces to keep or give away, and sells the rest on platforms like Facebook Marketplace.

Due to limited space in his own apartment, Mr Urbano said he usually tries to sell the items within a week or two.

If they don’t sell, he gives them away to make space for new hauls.

“I think it was good to give away a lot of stuff for free. So people will get into recycling and they will also start to pay attention to all the rubbish,” he said.

Clothes, cash and computers

“My friends are shocked at how much good clothing, like perfect clothing, ends up in the trash,” he said, adding that sometimes these clothes and bags still contain wads of cash forgotten in pockets.

Mr Urbano said he recently sold a small Fendi bag for around $200.

When he finds luxury items, Mr Urbano said he tries to verify their authenticity by checking the serial numbers on sites like Entropy. He said he also consults his friends who sell luxury goods.

Mr Urbano surmised that some of the computer equipment he found could have belonged to expat students and that the bulky electronics were left behind because they were too cumbersome.

Others have since taken to joining him on his “dumpster diving” adventures.

Urbano said his discoveries last year included:

  • 50+ television sets
  • 30 fridges
  • 20+ washing machines
  • 50 computers/laptops
  • Up to 15 couches
  • 50 vacuums
  • 150+ pots and plants
  • 100+ lamps and decorative paintings
  • $1,275 worth of cash
Leonardo Urbano made $100,000 selling thrown-out goods.
Leonardo Urbano made $100,000 selling thrown-out goods. Credit: Instagram/ @thetrashlawyer

According to Australia’s most recent biennial national waste report for the financial year 2020 to 2021, the country generated around 75.8 million tons of waste. That’s almost 3 per cent more than in the financial year 2018 to 2019.

Around 30 per cent of the waste is sent to landfills.

Mr Urbano calls himself “The Trash Lawyer” as he advocates for the right of “trash” to live another day.

He’s been dumpster diving in the past four years and told CNBC that he’s paid rent with the money earned from selling what he found. He’s also furnished his apartment for free.

Some noteworthy favourites include a painting by two-time Archibald Prize finalist Dapeng Liu with an estimated value of $3,000, an antique Victorian English centrepiece and a coffee machine from Italy worth around $600.

He also shared that he has not needed to buy cleaning products for years.

“When people move out, you need to give back the apartment totally empty,” Mr Urbano explained.

“So for years and years, I kept finding laundry detergent 30 per cent to 40 per cent full, so I will just bring it home,” he said.

Leonardo Urbano made $100,000 selling thrown-out goods.
a painting by two-time Archibald Prize finalist Dapeng Liu with an estimated value of $3,000. Credit: Instagram/ @thetrashlawyer

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