Archive for Saturday, July 30, 2005

One man’s trash not legally another’s treasure

With moving season here, curbside finds are everywhere, but few realize Dumpster diving is a crime

July 30, 2005

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Lacey Dumler doesn't often intend to go Dumpster diving. But sometimes, she says, the opportunity is too good to refuse.

Take, for example, the time Dumler - an eight-year Lawrence resident - found an abandoned Papasan chair left by the garbage during one of the city's big moving weekends. Who could resist the temptation of a free piece of furniture in good shape?

"I really only do it when it's hard not to," Dumler said of her approach to Dumpster diving. "It's like a treasure hunt, but without the pirates."

There's only one problem: Dumpster diving is illegal.

"It is against the law to get into somebody else's trash Dumpster, unless it's your trash Dumpster or your landlord's trash Dumpster and it's part of your rental arrangement to be in that Dumpster," said Assistant City Manager Dave Corliss, who leads City Hall's legal services department.

Lance Lee, of Lawrence, looks over some compact discs he discovered in a Dumpster late Friday afternoon. As apartment dwellers' leases expire, Dumpsters fill up with trash - and treasure - as people clear out their residences and move on.

Lance Lee, of Lawrence, looks over some compact discs he discovered in a Dumpster late Friday afternoon. As apartment dwellers' leases expire, Dumpsters fill up with trash - and treasure - as people clear out their residences and move on.

That news seems unlikely to deter the hundreds of "divers" from Lawrence and the surrounding area who are scouring the city's alleys, trash bins and other garbage collection points this weekend, when leases end and apartment complexes experience massive turnover among their tenants.

Martha Cusick, manager at The Legends, 4101 W. 24th St., said she's seen tenants leave behind microwaves, small refrigerators and other perfectly good merchandise rather than bother with the effort and expense of moving.

The availability of so much good free stuff, she said, can be irresistible even though divers often must cross private property lines to collect the booty.

"There's so much of it going on, it's kind of hard to control," Cusick said. "There's people who come into the city just to go down the street and see what's been put out."

The city code says that: "The city shall have the exclusive right to collect and dispose of refuse within the city limits and no other person shall collect and dispose of refuse within the city," unless authorized by City Hall.

Violations, however, haven't resulted in much enforcement.

The punishment for Dumpster diving is a fine imposed by the municipal court judge, Lawrence Police Capt. Steve Zarnowiec said.

"I'm sure there are occasional complaints about somebody going through somebody else's trash," Assistant City Manager Dave Corliss said. "I don't recall getting that complaint myself."

Roommates Jodi Pearson, a Kansas University senior from Wayzata, Minn., left, and Elise Berlau, a KU senior from Prairie Village, wind up to toss a rug into a Dumpster behind the apartment they are moving from this weekend. Aware of the many people who Dumpster dive, the students said they bought a paper shredder. "We didn't want to risk it," said another roommate Natalie Fisher, a KU senior from Overland Park, referring to the danger of identity theft.

Roommates Jodi Pearson, a Kansas University senior from Wayzata, Minn., left, and Elise Berlau, a KU senior from Prairie Village, wind up to toss a rug into a Dumpster behind the apartment they are moving from this weekend. Aware of the many people who Dumpster dive, the students said they bought a paper shredder. "We didn't want to risk it," said another roommate Natalie Fisher, a KU senior from Overland Park, referring to the danger of identity theft.

And Cusick says she's fine with Dumpster diving, so long as private property is treated with respect.

"We don't care if people want to take things," she said. "But we don't want people here who would do damage."

Dumler said she thought the law was "absurd," and that people shouldn't risk punishment for salvaging good items that might otherwise be trashed.

"Waste not," she said. "Want not."

Where to leave your stuff...

St. John's Rummage House
1246 Ky.
331-2219
Items: Clothing, household and kitchen items, furniture, small appliances.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays. 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays.
Donations may be left on the house's porch during the day. Before leaving large items, please call 331-2219.

Lawrence Social Service League Store
905 R.I.
843-5414
Items: Clothing, household and kitchen items, bicycles, tables and chairs, small appliances, toys.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Wednesday through Friday. 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
Donations accepted only during store hours.

Penn House
1035 Pa.
842-0440
Items: Clothing, household and kitchen items, canned goods, small appliances.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Donations accepted only during store hours.

Ballard Community Center
708 Elm
842-0729
Items: Children's clothing.
Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Donations accepted only during store hours.

Goodwill
2200 W 31st St.
331-3908
Items: Clothing, household and kitchen items, furniture, small appliances.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday. Noon to 4 p.m., Sunday.
Donations accepted only during store hours.

Salvation Army Store
Closed
No phone
Items: Clothing, household and kitchen items.
Donations may be left at the trailer parked on the northwest corner of 19th Street and Haskell Ave.

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Comments

LawrenceMommy 9 years, 8 months ago

Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the United States Supreme Court uphold that trash left out becomes public property and anyone can claim it? Is this just another example of our City Commissioners deciding that the US Constitution doesn't apply to them? Can somebody please thump these morons over the head and make them realize that they have to follow the same rules that everyone else does???

BrianR 9 years, 8 months ago

Another law that needs to be tossed out with the trash. The law is absurd.

Tasslehoff 9 years, 8 months ago

The Law may be absurd, until someone pieces together your info and steals your identity, sure it's your responsibility to make sure all this stuff is properly shredded, there is also the matter of disease, of which there are so many I don't want to get into, if it's someone who can't afford health insurance, the taxpayers pay for it. If you have goodies that you don't want, but are useful, maybe put them beside the dumpster like I've seen many college kids do. The idea of climbing in a dumpster and getting stuck with someone's needle, even though it maybe slightly clean from a diabetic who has no diseases, except for the ones that have now grown on the needle, makes me think common sense would win out over a law against it...but there are always those who do it. (The needles used by diabetics should always be disposed of properly) another law...do you think it's followed religiously? How about a junkie's needle? Kids learn by seeing, you want kids in and out of dumpsters, hopefully that law also provides for negligent parents whose kid has just cut open his arm with broken glass, or stuck with the needle...I don't. I can be serious...yesterday it was a silly question, this is really not if you look at it realistically. The Law it to protect the People. Donate the stuff to the above mentioned charities, leave it beside the dumpster, don't crawl in one.

BrianR 9 years, 8 months ago

Tasslehoff, give it up. Next you're going to tell me I'll catch a cold if I go out with wet hair. Read the rest of the paper, ID theft can be accomplished w/o touching anything you own. Maybe you should hide under the bed now.

Tammy Copp-Barta 9 years, 8 months ago

What about the trashmen? I know several who tell me all the time the things they salvage from trash pickup. LOTS of treasures .. how come it's okay for them, who are CITY OF LAWRENCE employees to break that law?

MadAsHell 9 years, 8 months ago

Lighten up people, a lot of time laws like that are on the book to prevent liability on the property owner's part. Imagine if one of those nasty "dumpster divers" broke an arm or had some other serious injury as a result of rumaging through another person's trash. Without the law, there would be no indemnification of the property owner unless the said property owner posted a warning.

Aileen Dingus 9 years, 8 months ago

Soooo.... y'all are telling me my bank is trash? Because I've thrown out tons of trash over the years, but it wasn't until my bank got hacked that it really messed up my life.

(sorry- a little touchy on the subject this morning)

algarcia 9 years, 8 months ago

Tasselhoff has a very valid point. Going through mail that someone has thrown away is the easiest way to have their identities stolen. Not only that, but there is a plethera of bacteria and diseases that you could end up with. I don't think a cute chair or new dishes is worth coming home with e. coli, staph, Hepatitis, or AIDS even.

hammysammy 9 years, 8 months ago

AIDS? From dumpster diving? That is hilarious. Seriously. I heard you can also get it from a toilet seat.

insanegrey 9 years, 8 months ago

I think everyone--including Dave Corliss (from city hall's legal dept.) and Joel Mathis (writer of this story)--is misconstruing the intent and scope of this city code. The city does not have the power to outlaw dumpster diving, since the Supreme Court upheld it in 1988 (California v. Greenwood). It is perfectly legal to take anything from the trash as long as you aren't trespassing to get to it, as every KU J-school grad should know.

I think it's pretty clear from the wording of the city code ("The city shall have the exclusive right to collect and dispose of refuse within the city limits") that its intent is simply to prevent private trash collection compaines from operating in Lawrence, not to protect anyone's privacy or safety.

knapper 9 years, 8 months ago

IM the guy on the other page who's checkbook was stolen and who's account was JUSt cleaned out. It was totally by accident that the stuff was thrown away. Now I was supportive of the people who roamed the downtown and salvaged the stuff from the trash so that they may have something in their lives that they may not have been able to have...but I feel entirely different now. Tim knapp

Ragingbear 9 years, 8 months ago

We should petition city hall regarding allowing dumpster diving under the following conditions.

  1. It shall be unlawful at any time to handle, possess, or otherwise use any documents, checks, or other identification for any purpose.

  2. By entering the trash area, you forfiet any liability from damages or illnesses that may result.

  3. Tresspassing signs shall be honored at all times. And signs posted by the owners of a property stating that dumpster diving is not allowed means exactly that.

  4. Any messes, noises, disturbances or otherwise shall be illegal.

  5. Failure to follow these ordinances shall cause you to forfiet any right to salvage trash for not less than one year, or more.

This is stuff otherwise slated for the landfills. Much of it still usable. Sure, you can donate stuff to charities, who tend to act like your scum for donating stuff (I worked at one, and they treated donors like scum.). Not to mention, these places then take this free stuff and mark it up to prices higher than those offered at yard/garage sales(With the exception of Penn House. All stuff there is free with proof of income). There are typically no exceptions for those needing furniture,appliaces, dishes ect. who are impoverished in some way. And let us not forget that a typical college student is throwing this stuff away because they can't be bothered with a sale that could make them some cash, so why should they just GIVE the stuff away.

There are many good things out there. It's environmentally friendly, and most people use common decency and courtesy when doing so. And if you don't want people there, a sign can make such a message clear. As it is, the police look the other way unless there is a complaint. And we already have a bunch of laws that aren't enforced by the police anyways. So what is the point?

insanegrey 9 years, 8 months ago

I guess you missed my comment in which I pointed out that dumpster diving IS legal, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. No petition is necessary.

rooga 9 years, 8 months ago

-Tasselhoff Are you a PIG? Oh excuse me, police officer?

allaboutfamily 9 years, 8 months ago

Lawrence, like MANY other cities in America, COULD and SHOULD have what is called TRASH DAYS. In the city we now live in, for five weeks (as our city is divided into five area, one with Monday pick-up, Tuesday, etc.--) you leave out your unwanted / broken, etc. items (with limits) and by the time the trash man comes, at least 50 percent or more of your stack is gone. By doing it over five weeks, the trashmen have to deal with it one day a week for five weeks, and the 'treasure hunters' go at it for 12-20 hours before the trashmen get there. This year, we made out with over $6000 in mainly perfect condition items, and some of them needed MINOR repairs. We didn't take it, but even a HOTTUB was out there!! So, why fill landfills when it COULD be left on the curb for someone else that needs it to use? We moved here about a year ago, leaving most things in storage; it made our house a home FOR the cost of gas and our time! And, our children LOVED it too. They got sand boxes, tricycles, their dream futon bunkbed, lamps, bedside tables, you name it; they can't wait for next year. So, if ya want 'em out of the trash, make TRASH days---people put the stuff out a day early, and watch it disappear!! SAVE THE LANDFILL, help the needy (or not so needy!)--it made our summer GREAT!! Our kids are happy too!!! PS we even got five bags of sand never opened to fill the sandbox with!!

ozmaniac2 9 years, 8 months ago

I see no reason why an individual who is retieving an item that they may be able to use, but cannot afford should be penalized for doing so. The government is always encouraging us to reduce, re-use and recycle. I know of many college students who do this yearly to furnish or decorate their living space. for those with computer access there is a group, who's whole purpose is to help individuals who have useable stuff they want to get rid of. The group is known as Freecycle. The website address is www.freecycle.org. I know that Lawrence has a freecycle group as i have goten several items from this group in the past.

geekin_topekan 8 years, 8 months ago

The city code says that: "The city shall have the exclusive right to collect and dispose of refuse within the city limits and no other person shall collect and dispose of refuse within the city," unless authorized by City Hall.

This sounds like it was written to keep private contractors out of the trash collection business. The only way that a dumpster diver could be any threat to the city economy is of the city itself starts to enforce this contractor's law on a stick wielding dumpster diver.

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