Is my garbage on the curb up for grabs?

Every so often, on the night before garbage collection, I see a pickup drive slowly down my block checking out everyone’s garbage that has been put out. I’ve never actually seen him stop, but it is obvious that he’s looking for stuff to take. Is this legal? Is trash placed at your curb for collection public domain, or could someone get in trouble for taking it?

Personally, I wouldn’t mind him taking an old lawnmower or some piece of furniture or whatever, but I’d be pissed if he took any trash bags or anything. I really wouldn’t want anyone going through my personal garbage, although I’m sure 99% of the time there wouldn’t be any credit card statements, or anything embarassing in there. I’d still feel uneasy with some stranger looking through it.

If this has already been asked/discussed I apologize, but I couldn’t find anything in the search, although it seems like a common question.

My guess is that taking away your stuff per se is not illegal (after all, you are throwing it away), but that looking through your confidential papers would be. Of course, IANAL.

Nope. Private detectives, the police the FBI and almost everyone else (IRS, neighbors, daughter’s boyfriend, stalker) go through garbage all the time looking for confidential papers. Thieves do the same thing looking for credit card or other interesting numbers. In some places as soon as you put out the trash for disposal it becomes fair game. In other places, it has to be picked up and removed from your property. Then it becomes the property of whoever picked it up. If I wanted your stuff, I’d pick it up myself before the regular sanitation engineers got there. That’s not illegal. Or I could follow you to the dumpster and pick up your stuff as soon as you toss it. Or I could just pay the garbage man a crisp $100 a week for driving around the corner and handing me everything that came from your house.

So…off to the store for that nice paper shredder you have been promising yourself!

I know where I live (New Zealand) rubbish placed on the curb becomes the legal property of the local city council and or the company contracted to take it away.

This has become an issue recently with the introduction of curbside recycling as some individuals (usually on social security) have developed a habit of taking aluminium cans from recycling crates and selling them for cash to scrap metal dealers.

I suspect that a similar arangement occurs in most places.

They implemented a recycling program here several years ago. They handed out three bins to everyone for paper, cans and plastic. Then they spent millions building special garbage trucks, and figured they’d finance the trucks with the recycling deposits from the collected items.

So, they put the program in place, everyone puts their recyclables at the curb, and guess what? A bunch of entrepreneurial types come around and collect it on their own. Of course, the city goes wild because they’ve got these million dollar collection vehicles that have nothing to pick up, and no revenue coming in to pay for them. So, they illegalize the taking of the recyclables. They say if someones put it in the bin by the curb, it’s now city property.

This is so typical of government. If they would’ve just distributed the bins, a whole private collection industry would’ve been created, with jobs and taxes and real value. Instead we’ve got another bloated government program.

One of my pals regularly tours the neighborhoods for chairs and tables that can be repaired and painted and sold in gift shops for $50- $150. Time is still an investment but she just makes small changes in her route as she takes kids here and there. She borrows my truck if she finds something too big for the trunk of her car! Probably what the truck is doing in your neighborhood.

I thought in New Zealand, the stuff was put on the kerb, not on the curb…?

Ordinances could vary by city. In our city, there is a “parkway”, an edge of grass between the street and the sidewalk, that technically the City is responsible for… although I have to mow and do most maintenance myself, the City planted a tree there, for instance. Stuff put there is open to scavanging.

Our city also has a once a year massive garbage pick-up day, when people can put out almost anything – old TVs, broken furniture, etc. People come from miles to scavange. My wife found a marvellous metal dollhouse (from the 1950s) just lying there to be hauled off as trash.

In California, it is against the law to go through someone’s garbage. THis law was passed not beacause of the many actors there, but mainly because Richard Nixon lived there.

In Germany, on various nights in different communities there is a big garbage night where German’s put out stuff too big to fit the normal garbage. As long as you are quiet about it, it is ok to take the stuff though the German’s tend to think you’re insane for wanting someone elses garbage. Many American G.I.s have furnished their apartment with furniture from big garbage night. I still have a table and a stand from it.

I did/do this. It’s an on and off obbsesion. “One mans trash is another’s treasure”. A long time ago some one told me there was a word for this, it,s called “goniffing”

According to one of the investigators in the security department of the company I work for, the Supreme Court made some decision regarding this. (It had to do with police needing a warrent to go through someones trash). If the trash is on the curb side it is considered public domain and may be rummaged through. P.I.'s call this a “trash cover”, and usually do this a 3a.m. as many people put their cans out the night before. Shred your personal documents folks!

I recommend getting a shredder and shredding anything that has your name, address, or any other kind of personal identification on it.

Do this if for not other reason than that it is fun. There is just something that makes me feel important sitting in my living room shredding papers.

I keep hoping Fawn Hall will show up and offer to “help”.

lee wrote:

In California, it is against the law to go through someone’s garbage. THis law was passed not beacause of the many actors there, but mainly because Richard Nixon lived there.

I live a few miles from San Clemente, where Dick used to hang out, and I suspect this isn’t the case. He’s a hero here: if Dick wanted to rummage, most people would vote to let him.

If you’re specifically talking about police going through garbage looking for evidence, I don’t think you’re correct, but I’m not sure.

If you’re talking about rummaging for old junk or recyclables, you’re wrong. It’s illegal, but it has nothing to do with Mr. Trickster.

Pickup trucks used to regularly cruise through my neighborhood in the pre-recycling days, picking up newspapers, bottles, and aluminum cans. This was actually quite a business. I seem to remember the local newspaper going around with some of the collectors. They were employees of an underground trash company, as it were. They would deliver their loads of recyclables to larger trucks, which would deliver them to even larger trucks, then haul the loads in to large recycling plants. That they could make money at this still amazes me.

As soon as local recycling became required, special containers were distributed, and our local trash company was required to pick up the recyclable trash (for which we pay a monthly fee). The key here is that the local trash company keeps the recycling proceeds.

Around that time, after complaints from the trash company, the police began ticketing the privateers, and put an end to the business.

– Mike –

You may recall that Bill Gates’ trash was rummaged through by PI’s out to gather information. And it was legal.

You know I had long forgotten about this, but 20 years ago we used to have a guy go thru the trash to get old newspapers. So my mom made me bundle them up and tie them. Then he would simply grab them and run. Soon a lot of people in the neighborhood were tying up their old papers to save the trouble of having their garbage gone thru.

And didn’t Fred Sanford live in WATTS in CA. I guess back then (at least on NBC) you could be a junkman

Here in Minneapolis, there’s a big annual turnover of rental units due to the cycle of students attending college. Most of the apartment leases expire either in June, when students attending the University move out, or September when more students move in. It is absolutely unbelievable what people throw away simply because they don’t want to have to haul it with them. Those two times of year are a windfall for the diligent alley scavenger. I don’t know what the legal status is, but everyone does it.

Here in the UK the rubbish collection guys are not required to take “oversized” stuff - you have to arrange with the local council individually and usually wait for a separate weekly run.

Anyway a friend of mine got a new chest freezer and wanted to dispose of the old one - no place to store it so out on the front garden it goes. Sits there a few days and looks awful and his neighbours start complaining.

Brainwave! He sticks a sign on it saying - “For Sale - Apply Within - £50”.

By the next morning it’s gone.

(BTW being on his land at the time I realise this is totally off topic to the OP - tough.)

So…the government,(the public)should provide the capital and business should get the profits? Funny how business likes this form of welfare.

One of the nice things about the community I live in is that they have a monthly bulk trash pickup, where you can put anything out on the curb and the city will pick it up. (And I do mean anything: a guy down the street busted up his driveway, prepatory to putting in a new one, and piled all the concrete out front. Made a pile about 4 ft high, with a 6X12 footprint. The city took the whole pile.)

Now, I dunno if it’s strictly legal, but we go trash-pickin’ every month. Got a nice front porch glider, several chairs, art pottery, vintage clothes, Persian rugs, all sorts of cool stuff.

At my old apartment complex we had an informal custom. Stuff that might possibly be useful to someone was sat near the dumpster. If it stayed there for a couple of days, into the dumpster it went. Most often it dissappeared.

Blunt, the US Supreme Court ruled that it’s public domain.

Just make sure its on public property.