[Chat] trash picking

Stephen J Gewirtz gewirtz at bellatlantic.net
Wed Jun 1 15:42:10 EDT 2005

Courts have consistently held that police can go through trash without 
any warrant.  When you put trash out, you give up all expectations of 

On the other hand, police cannot enter your parked car without a 
warrant.  And there is a law against tampering with a parked car.  So 
the analogy does not hold up.

I have occasionally seen someone go through my trash, although not 
recently.  When it is someone looking for items to recycle, I am 
perfectly happy that the person is doing so.  When I object (and that, I 
am sure, is not the case here) is when the person going through the 
trash is leaving behind a mess.

I have also on occasion put an item such as a piece of furniture out 
with a note on it that anyone is free to take it.  That way, I have 
gotten rid of an item and it has been recycled.

On the other hand, my garbage can usually contains a garbage bag which 
contains what I have cleaned out from my cat litter boxes as well as the 
usual trash.  I would not want to go through such a trash bag.


Dale Ghent wrote:

> Generally, garbage or refuse that someone leaves out for pickup is 
> still their property. Rifling through someone else's garbage, before 
> it's picked up by the trash hauler, is considered trespass.
> Taking someone's "garbage" if you're not the authorized trash hauler 
> is, basically, theft. Ownership of trash ends when the hauler receives it.
> So, I would think that Judy is in the wrong twice... once for going 
> through trash, and second for taking something from it.
> Think of it as screwing with someone's car parked on the street. Would 
> you do that?
> /dale
> On Jun 1, 2005, at 2:34 PM, echalmers at mindspring.com 
> <mailto:echalmers at mindspring.com> wrote:
>> Judy--
>> I would hope that you would try to find out whose garbage you were 
>> rifling and return the money to that person.
>> I personally have no problem with people picking up visible items 
>> left outside as trash--if no one wants that banged-up table and I can 
>> use it in my yard, so be it. But I have a BIG problem with people who 
>> "pick" through small trash, since what you call trash picking 
>> is one way people steal identities. Not everyone is careful enough 
>> about what goes into the trash, and people intent on stealing 
>> identies will rifle trash looking for credit card bills, bank 
>> statements, and other identifying numbers.
>> Thus, if I saw you or anyone else picking through my trash, I would 
>> be very angry, would chase you off, and might in some circumstances 
>> call the cops. I have certainly called neighbors when I have seen 
>> people going through their trash.
>> Again, I hope you will try to return the money. 
>> Emily
>> -----Original Message-----
>> From: jdy
>> Sent: Jun 1, 2005 1:22 PM
>> To: Charles Village Discussion List
>> Cc: The Charles Village Chat List
>> Subject: [Chat] trash picking
>> to all you folks who look down on us alley shoppers,
>> i got a real bargain yesterday. $125.00 stuffed in a pencil box. in 
>> the same aisle was a small Tupperware container overflowing with 
>> pennies and some foreign coins.
>> sorry-- sale is over.
>> :~) judy
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