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Picking Through the Trash - Is It Legal in Avon Lake?

The answer might surprise you. Do you support scavenging? Take our poll.

They are Sunday evening fixtures in Avon Lake: The pickup trucks that move slowly up and down the city streets, stopping in front of houses to pick through trash set out for Monday’s garbage pickup.

Plenty of items are fair game for the taking, including old couches, furniture and appliances. Some consider it the ultimate recycling. But is it legal?

In cities such as Avon Lake, where there are no ordinances prohibiting scavenging, the answer is yes.

The legality of scavenging goes back to the 1980s when the Supreme Court ruled it legal in the United States and overturned a Court of Appeals ruling saying otherwise.

According to the 1988 Supreme Court Ruling of California vs. Greenwood, when a person throws something out, that item is now the public domain.

The issue in that case was whether the Fourth Amendment prohibited the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside the curtilage of a home.

The decision, in part states, “It is common knowledge that plastic garbage bags left on or at the side of a public street are readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public.”

Cities, however, have the authority to prohibit scavenging by local regulation.

Avon Lake does not have a local regulation.

“As long as stuff is put out on the tree lawn it can be taken,” Lt. Duane Streator said. "Some cities have had discussions about having ordinances that would restrict it.”

In 2010, the city of Parma passed an ordinance that increased the penalty for rummaging through trash. Doing so could result in fines up to $500 (from a previous $150) and potential jail time.

According to Parma’s Ordinance No. 660 titled “scavenging,” “no person, except an employee of the Department, shall sort over and/or remove any of such refuse, waste, rubbish or trash.”

Still, some Avon Lake residents feel that scavengers have become too aggressive.

A Tomahawk Drive resident, who asked that her name be used, cited an instance where two scavengers asked if they could take a hot water tank that was still in her garage. She had planned on taking it to the junkyard herself. 

“One person actually came around the back of the house where we were working in the yard,” she said. “If it's in my garage it's not going anywhere and they shouldn't stop.”

She also said her someone asked her father if he was getting rid of his riding mower because it was at the end of the driveway. Her father was in the garage getting bags to empty the grass clippings in at the time. The resident said her husband was also approached as to whether he was going to be “junking” a new mower while he too was emptying the mower's bag.

“We don't mind the trash picking at the end of the drive if it was from the trash, but not from my garage or while we're using our lawn mower,” she said.

Last month there was speculation that a breathing device left on a driveway near the treelawn on a Monday

Do you think scavenging should remain legal in Avon Lake? Take our poll. 

N.P. April 10, 2012 at 01:27 PM
Absolutely NOT! These creepy dudes(sanford and son) that drive up and down our streets in their broken down trucks are an eyesore IMHO! It needs to be stopped asap...It's just creepy and besides, who is to say that when they see a empty box from a brand new TV or stereo, they haven't thought about breaking into that house to get that brand new TV or stereo!
Lori E. Switaj April 10, 2012 at 01:31 PM
Sanford and Son... forgot about that show. I wonder how many bikes left by kids on the treelawns on Sunday nights are inadvertently picked up (kids put your bikes away).
Ward2Resident April 10, 2012 at 01:41 PM
I agree trash picking is recycling, but I would like to know who is my neighborhood. Perhaps the city could pass a regulation that the scrapers driving all around our neighborhoods must register with the city in order to trash pick. We have had instances on our street of scrapers breaking glass and throwing plastic back in the front yards, etc. because they only want the metal. I have heard of similar situations in other areas of the city. If scrapers had to be registered and display a number on their vehicle, the residents would have some sort of recourse when they are overly aggressive or make a mess on your front lawn.
bev connors April 10, 2012 at 01:47 PM
np and lori, you both sound like snobs. im sure when you have your garage sales thats ok. if you leave stuff out anybody can take your scattered junk, bikes toys off the tree lawn. you should be concerned for the stuff you paid for. you should be fined for leaving kids toys, bikes out making your yard look like sanford and son. im sure your neighbors would agree since they keep their yards immaculate. so yard sales are considered recycling also. get your nose out of the air. and one other thing, craig list, there are so many people that list free items they have put on the tree lawn in avon lake so somebody else can use items that are needed instead of going to landfills that are so over filled. so does that mean the city can fine the people that give away stuff free that they put on the tree lawn for them? i think avon lake is trying to be a snobby city now with this survey. get off you high horse and take care of other things in the city that need attention. im thinking im embarrassed be in this city now
Jason Baird April 10, 2012 at 01:53 PM
I really don't mind it. My neighbors and I have actually placed bets on how long it will take for a piece of scrap metal to be snagged. These folks are doing what they can to make ends meet. If it takes a Sanford and Son truck to do it, so be it. I mean really, are trash trucks so much better to look at? Aren't you really just judging these folks N.P.? They come here because we throw away good scrap! This is their job. Just like you have one (I'm assuming).
Candace Ashton April 10, 2012 at 02:05 PM
I'm happy if someone else can use what I put on the curb. All I ask is that the pickers leave what they don't want, the way they found it.
TK April 10, 2012 at 02:22 PM
I am happy for them to take anything we have put out on the curb FOR TRASH, but when they are coming to find us about something that is inside our garage or when we are actively cutting the yard that is very creepy. If I would have been in our back yard alone when some strange man comes asking about something that is in our garage I would have been scared. I'm all for them taking something from the trash, but not infringing on our property, it's unnerving. There should be some limits...
Scott Rollins April 10, 2012 at 02:45 PM
This issue could be resolved if the pickers just used common courtesy and restraint at times. A few times when I did a lot of cleaning out of junk I had people stop. I felt bad that if my neighbors wanted to leave right at that moment they would be blocked. At one point I had three pickers stop and go over various computer parts, metal junk pieces and at one point I had to say come on guys the street needs to be clear. The last time I threw out an item it had garbage in it like various paper things, or some trash from a car or two and the picker tried to empty those items on my tree lawn. I had to tell him no, if you want the item bag the other stuff yourself or take it all with you. If I had not stopped him I would have had another mess to clean. The only time I had a positive experience was when I just happened to put out more metal pieces at the end of the day and someone came by with his wife and ASKED if he could rummage. I said sure, he then produced his OWN garbage bags and went through a few bags I put out, and sorted stuff on his own. He took a few things, cleaned up anything he scattered and said thanks and left. If more were like him and his wife, we wouldn’t even be talking about this.
Andrea S April 10, 2012 at 03:25 PM
When we were doing home renovation and had a dumpster in our driveway (right up next to the garage, not at the end) we had multiple people stop and ask us if they could jump in and look around. We said no because it was too dangerous with all the nails and we didn't want to take the chance of someone getting hurt and then blaming us. As long as it's at the end of the driveway I don't care. However, if it's scrap metal and the city picks it up wouldn't they recycle it and get the money? Wouldn't that be preferable to an individual getting the money? Hmmm
Ted Underhill April 10, 2012 at 04:42 PM
Im glad we don't have bigger problems to solve in Avon Lake. This one is easy to fix. We just make them register, put a number on their car, have them pay $100.00 a year and kill one deer for a permit. Solves all our troubles. That leaves all of us the ability to focus on getting all the conservative republicans to move out! Then my life would finally be complete!
DM April 10, 2012 at 07:44 PM
The trash pickers are out of control! Last week we had a small pick-up that was packed 5-6 feet over the bed of the truck-with NO support or reinforcement on the sides. The items they were hauling were huge (refrigerators, water heaters, etc) as I drove past them a refrigerator door came off the top and landed in the road and smashed. Both pickers were laughing. I found nothing funny about their disregard for the safety of the kids playing in our neighborhood on a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I am all for re-purposing and recycling, but there has to be a better way. They need to be accountable for making sure the items are actually being disposed of and then transport them responsibly! We have also had a number of items taken that weren't trash and were left by the sidewalk for a few minutes!
Cheryl Lister April 10, 2012 at 08:41 PM
If someone can use something I can't, more power to them. If the items can help someone out, then I'm all for it.
LisaF April 10, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I don't have a problem with the pickers. If someone is recycling, that's less waste hitting the dump. And if they can make a little money in the process - good for them! I've not really had any bad experiences, but I don't leave anything in the tree lawn unless it is trash. As for the safety issue of heaped up trucks, isn't there already an 'unsecured load' law on the books? I don't think an officer has to see items falling to cite the driver. Maybe if the police officers would start writing tickets for the dangerous loads, the pickers would at least think twice about over stuffing and creating a dangerous situation.
Lori E. Switaj April 11, 2012 at 12:04 AM
John, I want to "like" that comment.
bev connors April 11, 2012 at 04:28 AM
well there you go. had only a couple of negative people. and if its one of those trash trucks thats overloaded i can understand that. but the economy is really tough right now. i own a repo company and i see the sadness that goes along with it. i rather have somebody come and take what is useful, sell it or whatever than go to the welfare office and collect. maybe this is the only way they can put food on the table. did you people that are against it ever think just how lucky you are to have what you do? do you realize sometimes how embarassing it is for these people to do this to make ends meet? thank your lucky stars you dont have to, the way the economy is and how many houses are in foreclosure in avon lake you might be one of those trash pickers too lol find something else to gripe about. something like cleaning up your own backyard.
Bill Conners April 12, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Bev I moved here because it's quiet and for 3-4 hours every nice summer sunday night I have to listen to these trucks with next to no mufflers going up and down my street? Maybe they should take $20 from scrapping and buy a muffler at autozone. I don't care if they pick I just don't want to hear them all the time! And I have picked an item or two over the years , I am actually amazed at what people throw out! Yes make them register but i know that will never happen.
bev connors April 12, 2012 at 07:25 AM
are we related? lol i hear that but we never hear anything. do u realize we have a diesel truck and nobody ever hears that? lol once in a while u will get a loud neighbor, dog whatever but not very often. i think they just needed something to write about and stirred up a hornets nest. they should go after the people who are not doing their job in the area. and one other thing ive seen so many yards in avon lake that looks like sanford and son. those people should be cited and made to clean up their yards.
Ward2Resident April 12, 2012 at 01:15 PM
If you are so concerned about people knowing you got a new tv, then cut the box up into smaller pieces and put it in a garbage bag.
Duane Harrington April 24, 2012 at 04:48 PM
In most cases these folks are just trying to make a living. They are doing something that we are either to lazy to do or just don't want to take the time to recycle those items ourself. They help keep OUR cost down on rubish collection. I think you know why I said OUR cost. As long as they respect my property, I have no problems with them as long as they stay "CURBED".

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