Dumpster Divers: What's Legal and What's Not?

Chances are, you or someone you know may have trash cans outside right now, waiting to be dumped. But did you know that there's nothing on the books in some cities to keep people from going through your trash? Geof Lickey of Sanger says, he found out the hard way. The sanger father of two already shreds pieces of trash that have his personal information, but admits that from time to time, some things slip through. So you can imagine his ire Wednesday morning, as he took his kids outside to head to day car, when he saw a man going through his one of his trash cans. "I told him to get out of my trash, he's trespassing. He told me he could be there all he wanted to," Lickey says. Lickey was so upset, he called Sanger Police. "They told me, no, it's not against the law," he says. Lickey even snapped pictures of the man in frustration, and posted them on Facebook. "I'm just thinking, how is this not against the law?" he says. "That is considered abandoned property. So if people go through that bin, it is not a crime," says Jaime Gaines, a Corporal with the Sanger Police Department. While it is legal to sort through the black-colored cans, the blue-colored cans are a whole other matter. Those hold recyclables. "It is considered property of the city once it is placed either on the curb or on the collection site," Gaines says. "It is considered a misdemeanor crime, so they'd be looking at a fine or possible community service or other penalties." A lot is at stake for the city. Aluminum cans go for about $1.60 a pound. That's money, that can easily add up. Lickey says he's not sure if citations work. After all, who knows whether the man he took pictures of even has a home. But others did give him some advice on how to avoid another run-in, or be prepared should he face the man again. "Someone told me to freeze paintballs and shoot paintballs but I didn't want to go to jail for assaulting this guy," he says. "Someone even told me to put dog poop on top of the recycling, but I actually think I'd get fined by the city for putting something on the recyclables." While it's not against the law for people to sift through the black cans, it is illegal to leave trash out. That would be considered littering.