Is it wrong to take my neighbor's yard waste?

tomatotomataMarch 19, 2012

While walking my dog on the day before trash day, I check out the neighborhood, and return later to "collect" compostable material. But I feel a little self-consious when I am transferring the contents of my neighbor's can into my garbage bag.

Any one else do this, or am I doing something wrong? I'm talking about cans that have been set out for collection, and I only take the contents, not the can itself.

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bi11me(5b)

In my opinion, it would be ethically wrong not to do so. You are removing valuable material from the waste stream, reducing the methane output of the waste treatment facility, prolonging the life-expectancy of the landfill, and/or lightening the load of the sanitary workers who have to lift the barrels. The only down sides I see are that you may be depriving some other scavengers of some nutrition, and some unenlightened towns have rules against it (identity theft and leaving a mess being the two most common concerns). I say they should be thanking you for doing the community a service.

I do it too.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 12:01AM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

I'm all for keeping stuff out of the landfills, etc., but in my opinion, actually going through someone else's trash is creepy. I do not want to look out the window and see someone going through my trash. Think of all that goes in your trash...do you want your neighbors going through it? Let's say you're not a private person and don't care...but still, I'm sure you can imagine situations where it could be an invasion of privacy. And there's always the possibility of contaminants in a neighbor's trash.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 1:22AM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

I wish there was an edit option on this forum...I'm watching TV while doing this, and when I reread the title of the thread after posting...perhaps I've misinterpreted your post. When you say you are taking it from the can, is it a can just for compostable stuff...in particular yard waste? If that's the case, no problem (although it might be considerate to ask the person if it's okay with them if you take it whenever it's out)...my comments are for getting things out of the regular trash. Sorry if I misunderstood.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 1:29AM
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vermontkingdom(4a)

IMHO, I think it would be better to ask the neighbor. My neighbors know about my passion for composting and go out of their way to provide compostables for me. Just a one-time conversation with him/her about how this benefits both your garden and the environment would be useful. This conversatiion might also motivate your neighbor into making his/her own compost pile or better yet, to save additional compostables for you.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 6:46AM
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Kimmsr(4a/5b-MI)

Once that trash has been placed on the curb (kerb?) it is fair game for any scavanger. Feel no guilt.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 7:25AM
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Lloyd

Let's say that I am a friend of tomatos neighbor and I had arranged to pick up the trimmings for my compost pile. Now I'd be kind of peeved if someone else came along and purloined said materials.

Now the odds are you are fine but if t'wer I, I'd ask (or at least do it under the cover of darkness, mask and dark clothing optional).

Lloyd

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 8:32AM
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tn_gardening

I'm sure we are all missing some details. However, considering you put the word "collect" in parenthesis and mentioned the fact that the contents were in a can, I'd be reluctant to take the stuff.

If they were in bags and next to the cans, maybe. In a covered can, nope.

On your next dog walking trip,knock on a few doors and let them know that you are looking for compost material. It's not too hard to simply say..."I saw you raking leaves..."

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 9:36AM
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darth_weeder(z7 NY)

Personally I wouldn't want someone going through my can in the middle of the night without asking first,
but that's just me.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 11:02AM
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Lloyd

T'was an attempt at humour. Sorry.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 12:54PM
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albert_135(Sunset 2 or 3)

Some places, I've no feel for how widespread this is, once it is in the container at the curb it is the property of the waste collection company. Even then, do they care?

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 3:29PM
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tomatotomata

Thanks for the input everyone. Just to be clear, yes, the cans are exclusively for yard waste, and never covered. I never trespass on private property, and never lift a lid. But I can see that some, maybe even me too, might have objections, and Lloyd, you make a good point that someone else might have "dibs" on the goodies.
Maybe I'll rethink my collection strategy.

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 3:32PM
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toxcrusadr

I wouldn't worry too much about other people having dibs. If they wanted to save it for someone, it would be up in the yard or next to the garage. At least that's the way I would do it, because once I put it at the curb, it's fair game for anyone. (Of course, I don't put anything useful at the curb, but theoretically)

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 4:01PM
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toxcrusadr
    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 4:04PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

Doesn't one of the ten commandments cover this topic?

Thou shalt not covet they neighbor's trash!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 6:57PM
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joepyeweed(5b IL)

oops spell check didn't catch that one! Thy... not they....

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 7:11PM
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dennis_564

If mucking around in someone else's garbage is wrong, then I don't want to be right!

    Bookmark   March 20, 2012 at 8:10PM
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tn_gardening

the cans are exclusively for yard waste, and never covered

========================

If that's the case, I'd definitely look for an opportunity to meet this neighbor. If he goes so far as to dedicate a can for yard waste, he might not have any problem letting you come and get it.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 10:05AM
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Lloyd

Due to unseasonably warm weather, some people have already started their yard work this year. As a result, there are bags of leave and rakings being put out for disposal. Now the diversion program I have been running for the past six seasons isn't quite ready to start but I didn't want this material to be taken to the landfill. We also didn't think there was enough material to dedicate a waste truck to run around picking it up. So in my stupidity, thinking there'd only be a couple of trips, I offered to run around with my trailer and collect the bags. Whilst doing this, I met some of the citizens and surprisingly almost none of them knew of the program despite annual mailings and notices. It was kind of disappointing but no one yelled at me to leave their bags alone.

After five trips with my trailer and only half done, I called "UNCLE" and arranged for the regular collection guy to finish it off. Got the equivalent of two truck loads yesterday.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 10:23AM
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bi11me(5b)

Lloyd, you may have just doubled your input by being the face behind the process.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 7:18PM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

You never what you will get. It may not be all good. There could be diseases in that yard waste. It may have been sprayed with round up or pesticides.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2012 at 10:58PM
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toxcrusadr

I doubt that 'leaves and rakings' from spring cleanup are sprayed with much of anything. Lawn clippings, maybe.

Based on experience, Lloyd appears to know what he's doing. :-]

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 10:32AM
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tropical_thought(San Francisco)

Seriously, some people do spray their trees at one time or another. Trees do get insect pests. You just don't know.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 3:28PM
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toxcrusadr

True. The risk is non-zero when using other people's yard waste. Everyone has to weigh the pros and cons and decide for themselves.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 3:55PM
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Lloyd

There are only a handful of pesticides that do not degrade readily in a proper composting system and they are not approved for homeowner use here in Canada. I'm not going to sweat it.

Lloyd

    Bookmark   March 22, 2012 at 4:03PM
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leira(6 MA)

I think it depends to some extent on where you live, and the culture there. I live in the city, and using the curb like a lazy version of FreeCycle is common. I've acquired a lot of large children's toys from the curb on trash day, wine bottles for homebrewing from neighborhood recycling bins, and coffee cans for steaming the old family Christmas Pudding recipe. I wouldn't hesitate to take yard waste.

I live in an area where homeless (and possibly other low-income?) people make the rounds on trash day to collect returnable cans and bottles. Because we know this is true, we've actually stopped going to the effort to return cans and bottles ourselves, because we feel confident that someone will get the value from them. I don't want anyone rummaging in my bin while it's still in my yard, but once it's out on the street, I'm happy to let people take what they want.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2012 at 7:26AM
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