29 answers

Is It Illegal to Go Through Someone's Recycling/trash Bins?

This is an ongoing situation. I didn't mind that people would go through our recycling bin because I figured they were looking for recyclable cans/plastic etc. My husband has brought up a couple of times how I should not let strangers dig into our recycling/trash bins. He says that maybe they are not looking for recyclables. They may find our private information even though we shred everything and use the information. I thought that was a good point. There have been a couple incidents when my husband came home (different times of the day) and came across people walking down our driveway to look through our recycling/trash bin. Once, the people realized we didn't have anything, they walked away and realized that the car(my husband) pulling into the driveway was the person living in the home. The person walked pretty quickly down the block. My husband got out of his car and yelled "excuse me". The person ignored him a few times...and family turned around. My husband, said that it was illegal to go through someone's bins..especially the bins being on our property still. Now, can someone tell me how do we handle this situation?

What can I do next?

More Answers

This is an interesting question that was addressed in CALIFORNIA v. GREENWOOD, 486 U.S. 35 (1988). In a nutshell - The police searched his trash in order to obtain proof that he was dealing narcotics - the searches were at first deemed inadmissible, then later, in a higher court, it was decided that once garbage is put on the curb, that it is open to search by any body.

Best policy is to shred anything with any personal information on it and dispose of it separately.

5 moms found this helpful

I would think that if its at the curb, then no, its not illegal but if its on your property then yes. We have some people that go around the neighborhood and collect stuff to recycle like steel or metal. We tossed out an old sink with the faucet still attached. They took the metal parts and left the sink. My husband just put this heavy chair outside and it was gone the next day because someone came and picked it up. It had a lot of steel in it. They even took an old ironing board. I take our papers up to the school recycle bins.

5 moms found this helpful

Who "owns" the bins? Here in Chicago, the city does. So as long as the bins are not inside private property (like our garage), it is not a violation of personal rights/property to go through them.

I would suggest that you put them inside your garage until garbage day.

5 moms found this helpful

Hmmmm, good question. Even IF it's illegal I bet it's hard as hell to get the cops out there fast enough to take care of things.

I know around here people are looking for soda cans. I purposely seperate the cans and put them out EARLY in the daylight so somone can come take them. There's a lot of people that rely on that stuff and sure, I could cash it in myself but that's okay. I rather help someone out if I can. (No pun intended.)

4 moms found this helpful

It depends on the jurisdiction. However, it's never legal to go thru trash bins while they're sitting on private property because it's trespassing. In many jurisdictions it's legal to go thru the bins if they're sitting at the curb.

I might move the bins so that they aren't visible from the street. Other than that there is not much you can do unless you catch them on your property. Then tell them they're trespassing. I wouldn't call the police unless it's the same person who've you've stopped before. Perhaps the word will get around that you're willing to call the police and they'll stop.

Our city trash bins have a hole in the lid so that they can be locked. If this were happening to me I'd probably pad lock the bins. Not because I didn't want them going thru my trash but because I don't want them on my property.

You could also put bottles and cans at the curb so that they could be picked up by whomever without entering your property. My cousin did that for awhile and they always disappeared the same night.

We shred all personal info before we put it in the trash. Since you do too the likelihood of them gaining any useful info is very slim. The likelihood that they're even looking for anything other than useful objects is next to non-existent.

4 moms found this helpful

We put out stuff on Sunday for Monday pickup. I shred anything that I should be worried about. We know that there are folks that drive through the neighborhood every Sunday in order to see if something is sitting out. I kind of like it because I don't have to pay for the trash people to cart it off. I did that with an old mirror, a standing lamp that I cannot turn the knob to anymore, and my washing machine that broke. There are people who can fix this stuff, and I am so happy for them to get something out of it.

I am not surprised that the guy would not want to talk to you. He doesn't know how people feel about him looking through the trash. I would definitely not put anything in there that you would be worried about. Invest in a shredder.

D.

4 moms found this helpful

Actually I would be surprised if it is against the law anywhere. It is against the law to go through trash for the purpose of obtaining information to commit fraud but you have no idea if that is what they are actually doing.

You have given up possession of the property by placing it in your trash. The trash can tends to be placed at the end of your driveway which also tends to be a easement.

I have never had issues with the trash pirates, if anything I like them because they take my old TVs, bikes and things I don't really want in a landfill but I don't want to pay to get rid of the right way.

4 moms found this helpful

It's not illegal for anyone to go through any one else's garbage as long as it is not on your personal property...meaning if it's in your garage, in your driveway-not on the sidewalk-etc. (Learned that from one of my criminal justice courses!)

If it's on the sidewalk, that's considered public property and it's fine.

4 moms found this helpful

My best advice is to continue to shred everything, just in case. I think it may be illegal to come onto your property but if the trash/recycling is curbside I believe it is not.

3 moms found this helpful

To the best of my knowledge once you put it out on the curb it's fair game. However, l recommend you contact your city hall to find out if there's any time of ordinance.

3 moms found this helpful

Everywhere I've lived it's illegal (trespassing) if they're on private property, and some places I've lived (but not most) it's illegal on the street. Most it's legal once they hit the sidewalk.

Reasonable Expectation of Privacy plummets the moment it hits the can, but people are not allowed to take anything from your property (no matter where it's located) without your permission.

If someone is rifling through ANYTHING on my property I'm going to take issue with it. If you don't have business with ME (us, whatever), then you don't have business on my property.

2 moms found this helpful

It is here.. against the law.

2 moms found this helpful

wouldn't it be trespassing, either way?

2 moms found this helpful

Check with your city hall (who may refer you elsewhere) to ask specifically. Being that you're in CA I will tell you it varies city to city.

It IS illegal in my city, and I never see anyone doing it. But in the city I moved from just 2 towns over it wasn't illegal (2 years ago so it may have changed) and people went through trash cans all the time, gross.

2 moms found this helpful

I think it truly depends on what your local laws are on the matter.

Here you can not go onto someones property to dig through bins. If it is out on the curb going to the garage person then there is a ''grey'' area on what is allowed. I think they take it on a case by case basis.

If you live in apt and leave something out by the dumpster it is fair game...

If you find someone digging through any type of trash on your personal property you have grounds to call the Police. Even if it is just garbage. It is your home.

It is to easy for people to get personal information. You never know when you may forget to shred something and it gets out. That is the difference of security and invasion at that point. All it takes is your name and a little bit of personal and your whole life is ruined in the hands of someone looking for trouble.

I would make sure I kept my trash bins behind a gate or in the garage. I know that may mean having to make the space but it is that or having to piece together a stolen life.

It only takes the one wrong person to lose everything.

2 moms found this helpful

They can not go through them while in your driveway. CREEPS. Call the police. The more reports they receive, the more they will watch out for people walking in your neighborhood.

2 moms found this helpful

No, the police use that all the time. If it is discarded it is trash and not someones property anymore. If you don't want them going through the trash then by all means keep the cans in the garage until the trash collectors are coming. It used to be one of the kids chores when we had a garage, they got up early and pulled them to the curb, once they were empty the same kids brought them in the garage again.

2 moms found this helpful

Going through trash is one way identity theft happens.
I'm not sure going through trash is illegal.
It might vary depending where you are.
Call your local non emergency police number and ask.
The police might be interested in knowing if identity theft is becoming a problem in your area.

2 moms found this helpful

NO, it is not illegal. I have some experience with this, as we have a trash-digger who comes through the neighborhood weekly. Once trash is on the curb, it is no longer considered your personal property. It doesn't matter if you own the bins or the city does. If you don't want people going through your trash (and I don't blame you) keep it on your private property until the truck is coming. But even then, realize that people can do through it in the dump, so a shredder is always a good idea, too.

2 moms found this helpful

Yes, I've heard that it is. Also, on our bins, it says you can't put shredded papers in there.

1 mom found this helpful

My hubby and I had the same problem. In this economy, I think it's become necessary for some people to make the rounds on recycle days to see what they can find and collect recycle fees on for themselves. My husband felt very irate when we first caught someone digging through our recycle bins, but we live in a "bedroom" community that does not have a homeless, or even so much of a lower-income population - so I felt terrible for whoever this person must be, recognizing that they were most likely a resident of our town who had fallen on hard times. What we did, well, what I did, was that I started collecting all of our soda cans into a separate hefty garbage bag, and then I put the bag out next to the regular recycle bin with a sign on it saying "recycleable cans - please take entire bag". On recycle collection mornings the bag would be gone before the recycle trucks arrived and we were no longer woken up by the sounds of the person going through our bins.

1 mom found this helpful

Sometimes, I put something out hoping someone WILL take it (an old grill...literally was walking away from setting it there when the old guy in his pick up came by and I told him "I put that there just for you." LOL! Actually, though, in our community, they passed a law/rule that if you want something that someone set out for trash/recycling, you have to go to the door and ask if you can take it. Personally, if I put it there, I don't want it anymore and would rather not have strangers come to my door! And I don't put anything personal w/out destroying it first, anyway.

I guess you would need to check and see what the rules are in your town/community.

1 mom found this helpful

It depends on the city. Some prohibit taking from recycle bins and some do not. (The city wants the money from the recycled materials.)

Good luck to you and yours.

1 mom found this helpful

I would take exception if someone came on my property to rifle through my recycle bin, but once they're at the curb, I don't really have a problem because we shred anything that has personal information. However, we, too have a person who comes through our neighborhood looking for cans and bottles. We collect those items separately and leave them next to the bin. I'd much rather a needy individual gets my recyclable stuff than a big corporation (who charges me to take it away). And, if I can help this poor woman save a little of her dignity by not having to dive into my huge recyling bin, so be it. There's more of a risk of identity theft from paying your bill in a restaurant or store by credit card than by someone going through your recycling bin.

1 mom found this helpful

I would call your local police dept and ask what the law is. I suspect if the trash is out in the street for pick up it is fair game. If the trash is still on your property I would think it's not. It is still your stuff being stored on your property. No one should be trespassing on your property to look at your stuff. However it's a fine line between trespassing and not. Anyone, including civil volunteers, mail carriers, politicians, and salespeople can legitimately walk on your property to the door for their select purpose. Might want to have the police define trespassing for you as well. Otherwise, eliminate the problem by keeping your cans behind your gate until it's time to set them out at the curb. Continue to shred your paperwork - it's important!

1 mom found this helpful

I don't know if it is illegal ( I would think yes) but if the bins are on your property then they are considered trespassing and can be cited for that.

I would not like this at all and I would ask someone to leave my property. You don't know what you don't know and with all the identy theft, etc, it would be a major concern for me. I shred everything and anything that has our name on it.

We are fortunate to have a large garage and I store my bins inside the garage until garbage day.

1 mom found this helpful

I would assume that it's illegal. You pay to use those bins, they are essentially YOUR property. Your husband is most likely right, they are looking for personal information to use for their own benefit.
I highly recommend shredding all documents that have even the slightest personal information, including your name.

Does this happen often? Get a megaphone and, from a window, tell the people to leave or you will call the police.

1 mom found this helpful

I believe that going through someone's trash and recycling is illegal. Even if that's not, trespassing is. You should contact your local law enforcement agency and ask them if they can do extra patrols in your area because of this situation. That's really about all you can do unless you catch them there, call the police, and do a citizen's arrest for trespass.

1 mom found this helpful

I am surprised that most of the concerns are with identity theft which can be solved by not putting those papers in your trash. When we lived in Brooklyn, we noticed that even though trash was collected frequently, if you put out good stuff like furniture, clothing, boots, etc beside your trash cans they were usually gone by the time the trucks came to empty them. I am assuming people who look through other people's trash are looking for necessities for themselves which I would be happy to give them if I only knew...or artists who are looking for items to recycle into their creations. Maybe there should be a place where we can leave these things for people to obtain for free..I wanted to leave behind my down coat and well worn but still cozy lined boots before returning to CA but didn't know where to leave them so put them on top of a dumpster..hope someone found them before the trash collectors arrived!!

1 mom found this helpful

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