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Is it illegal to go picking through people's trash?
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Is it illegal to go picking through people's trash?

I'm seeing this guy in my subdivision going through our trash bag by bag. I'm wondering if this is a crime or not. Not being mean here, just wondering. Because we put sensitive information in our trash (although shredded), and I don't really feel comfortable with someone picking through it.

I don't think it's illegal once you put it out there (What stops anyone from going through it at the dump?). I wouldn't worry too much if you shread all your sensitive stuff.

Have you observed him enough to see what he's taking? He might be suplementing his income by recycling cans and plastics. try putting these things in a separate bag for him and I bet he'll stop going through the rest of the trash.

Once you put it out at the curb it is fair game for any one to pick through or even to take and there is nothing that you can do.

I do have one neat suggestion that you can do if you own a dog. Put the dog's doo doo all over your trash right before you throw it out, people tend to not really want to play in poop of any kind.

Another thing wait until you either see or hear the trash truck coming if you can, then put the sensitive information into your trash. Do not put it in until the last second, it will be picked up before they can dig through it and you will feel safer.

When I worked in the prison I met a lot of inmates who were in for stolen mail, it made me want to just put my fingers around their stinken little necks. Unfortunatly that is against the law to do, so the best I could do for you all is to dog them out hard. These inmates told me that they would pay people money to dig through other peoples trash and look for sensitive information. They even gave them a name, dumpster divers. Credit card statements and any thing that they could use to steal identities, it use to just tick me off to hear them talk about it. They also talked about getting into the corner mail boxes and getting the letters, if there were checks in there they would wash them and re write the amounts and make it out to them selves. It happened to one of my former neighbors, she put her letter in the mail box and some one stole it and wash it that was her rent check.

My former neighbors accross the street put out six bags of trash one night before they were going to move, by the morning they were all gone. Attention K-Mart shoppers, the blue light special is sitting at the curb.

Make sure that you have a cross shredder as they are a lot better than the ones that cut into strips. Also shred other things along with your sensitive materials and then mix them up very well. It will make it much more difficult for them to put back together.

I really wish it were illegal for them to dig through the trash, but it isn't when its on the street/sidewalk it is fair game for any one.

Keep safe and God Bless.

Dr. Luv
If it is on the street for pickup it is public domain so yes he can. If it is up beside your house or in your garage then no it is your property and he is tresspassing.

Picking through people's trash is not a crime in an area(subdivision) where collection of trashes is allowed by the residents. Paper trashes can be sold to junk shops and in turn sold to paper factories for recycling. If your trashes are taken by someone to get information out-of-it, it is not illegal. The CIA collects trashes of persons under surveillance and likewise their Soviet counterpart(KGB) going over the trashes of person that is of interest to them. Did you ever hear that CIA or KGB being convicted of doing this?

Huey Freeman
Technically, it is invasion of privacy. But it only counts if the trash is on your property; even an inch in the right place and the right lawyer can legalese you into submission. But to be honest, I don't think there are any specific laws concerning trash invasion, due to the fact that it's a dirty practice and there aren't too many issues with it.

It is not illegal, police do it quit often in a investigation because they do not need a search warrant, once you place the stuff on the curb to be picked up, you have lost any expectation of privacy thus no 4th rights imply

It depends on the laws where you are living. In SE Asia, your trash will be recycled several times before it gets to the dump, then people live at the landfill who make their living by picking through what the recyclers missed.

That is all your neighbor is doing, recycling. If you watch him you can probably see that he is either collecting metals, glass, plastics, paper, or anything that the recycling shops will buy.

In most places in the US it is perfectly legal. The state usually owns the land space near the road. If it really bothers you maybe just wait to put your trash out until the morning right before the truck comes. Don't get the guy in trouble though. He is most likely just trying to earn a living without asking for a handout and recycling is good for the environment.

It doesn't matter where it is, it is very illegal! Even though you shred all sensitive information, people can find out things about you just by going through your trash even though your name (etc) isn't on anything. Identity theft occurs this way, there is a small chance that even though you shred your readable material, something could have been missed not to mention weather you are renting or you won your home, it can be considered criminal trespassing for the reasons listed above.

If you aren't afraid,you can approach the subject and ask what he is doing rooting through your garbage, and let him know it is very unappreciative and that if it continues you are going to call the local police......and if you don't want to go that route, go ahead and let the police know what he is doing...this is a violation of privacy...YES...even though it's garbage!

im sorry, but it is not a crime once your garbage can hits the street! once you put your trash out there, it is considered 'public property'. If you feel really uncomforable about it, you can try putting all your trash in bags and tie them tightly shut. you could try writing PRIVATE on the bags or something like that. Maybe you could put a sign on the trashcan like "you are under servailance" or something like that! good luck!

technically, when u throw trash, it means that you dont want it anymore.... which means that it is not your property. picking on people's trash is not illegal at all.... why not use what others dont want? The world must thank you for recycling!

I don't know, but that is gross! You might call and talk to someone at the sherriff's office and ask what can be done about the guy, he might be a junkie or something.

the best thing to do is ask your friendly neighborhood police officer. he/she would know the answer, and could take care of the guy next time he comes around.

Perfectly legal once the can hits the street. Local ordinances some times prohibit it for public health reasons, then it would be illegal.


Not illegal--once you throw it out, you forfeit your right to it.

I dont think its illegal, but you could confront him about it and if he refuses to stop, then you can tell someone.

Ronald M
If its on Public Property you can

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