General Question

silky1's avatar

When does someones trash become public property?

Asked by silky1 (1505points) November 11th, 2012

Is it when it hits the curb, or after it’s been mixed with the other trash in a trash receptacle.?

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17 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

According to the Supreme Court it’s still yours if its near your house but once it hits the curb its public property.

zenvelo's avatar

It never becomes public “property”. Public property implies that is owned in common. But the Supreme Court has said there is no 4th amendment protection or reasonable expectation of privacy in your trash once it is out on the curb for pick up.

Likewise, once your recycling bin is out on the curb, anyone can pick out cans and bottles to recycle for the refund.

Coloma's avatar

One mans trash is another mans treasure. ;-)
Since I live rural there are no trash can raiders in my neighborhood, I never even think about trash robbers.haha

DrBill's avatar

They even made a movie about trash thieves.

dabbler's avatar

“Likewise, once your recycling bin is out on the curb, anyone can pick out cans and bottles to recycle for the refund.”
Not in NYC. Here it’s illegal to scavenge from bags of recycling out on the sidewalk for at least these reasons:
– loss of material=revenue for the recycling program
– open bags of trash/recycling spill out onto the sidewalk making a mess/hazard.
– discourage folks from rummaging through trash, ... that’s unsightly for tourists.

ragingloli's avatar

Depends on where you live.
Here it never becomes public property.
Until the waste disposal picks it up, it is your property, after that it is the waste disposer’s property.

Jeruba's avatar

So—@dabbler, in NYC what happens to scavengers? I’m assuming some people do it anyway. Is it more or less in the same class as littering?

@ragingloli, in Germany is sidewalk scavenging treated as theft? Do the authorities actually police the streets on trash day?

dabbler's avatar

@Jeruba Yes, it is done anyway, we see it all the time. Some of the well-organized scavengers have a shopping cart (or two) that they fill with deposit containers. I’ve seen several with a separate cart for other stuff they pick up that has potential value, e.g. scrap metals.

The ordinance here is specifically about recycling materials. The scavengers are subject to arrest but mostly, if apprehended at all, they are turned over to homeless outreach services – most of the scavengers are homeless folks.
The serial ‘offenders’, presumably the more successful ones with a system, seem to be going after deposit containers that are in with regular trash, not in the ‘recycling’. So, as far as I’m concerned I don’t mind the scavenging if they are careful with retying trash bags, and don’t make a mess.
They are seriously hard-working people who are doing us all a favor keeping the deposit containers out of landfills where they’d otherwise end up.

ragingloli's avatar

It is technically theft, yes.

bolwerk's avatar

NYC probably selectively enforces rules about garbage disposal. Apparently paper disposal is rather profitable, so they actually don’t want to lose paper. From what I heard, it’s only enforced if you drive around picking up paper. In other words, a hobo trying to make a buck would not get in trouble, at least as long as he doesn’t make a mess.

Shippy's avatar

If you are disposing of remains, it’s always yours sadly.

YARNLADY's avatar

In our area, the waste that is in the cans provided by the trash company is their property, so it never really becomes public property.

tacres's avatar

The only trash robbers in my neck of the woods are 4 legged ones but I believe here in Canada you lose control when it hits the curb because it is no longer on your property.

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silky1's avatar

The reason I asked is because I recently saw the movie @Star Chamber with Michael Douglas and judges who had a court case where the criminal got off because the trash was still his property because it hadn’t been officially tossed around with the other trash inside the trash receptacle.

tacres's avatar

Sounds like literary license. Hollywood follows White House rules & doesn’t believe in fact checking much I don’t think. Of course with a lot of judges today laws are only suggestions!

Lightlyseared's avatar

Star Chamber is from 1983. The Supreme Court didn’t rule on this till 1988 (California v. Greenwood – where it decided that there was no expectation of privacy once trash hits the curb) and there were cases where a curb side trash search had been deemed in admissible.

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