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. 

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".


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »