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?

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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.


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

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