Please Recycle

November 5, 2008 7:00 am

Every Tuesday night, we drag our recycling bins to the curb so the garbage truck can wake our kids up at 5:50 on Wednesday mornings. The county offers two bins each and was even nice enough to deliver a replacement recycling bin after one of ours mysteriously went missing. I like doing my part by recycling and the kids have even learned to fall back asleep after the bi-weekly abrupt wakings. They like doing their part for the earth as well and don’t mind a little sleep interruption in the name of being green.

A few months back, we were in Graham’s room for the nightly wind down and getting ready for bed. The trash had already been taken to the curb and something caught my eye outside. I looked out into the cul-de-sac to see a man on an electric wheelchair/scooter driving up to our trash. He began to rifle through our recycling and put several things into the bag he was carrying. I continued to watch as he did the same at two of my neighbor’s homes, rummaging through their trash and took several items from the recycling bins. Call me crazy, but I don’t really like letting a stranger rummage through my trash. It’s like letting someone into your home before you’ve had time to tidy up, I don’t like it. A couple of days after my first sighting, I spotted the guy in a different neighborhood scouring through their trash. Smart, I thought, he knows when each neighborhood’s recycling day is and goes in for the loot on the appropriate day.

The guy in the wheelchair is well known around our area. He looks off somehow and is frequently spotted driving in the road (vs the sidewalk) and slowing down traffic. He looks mean, he’s always wearing a scowl when I see him. If I had to guess, I would say he’s a disabled veteran. He lives about a mile from me in a tiny house with tons of junk in the yard (old appliances, toilets, furniture). My babysitter has lived in our neighborhood all her life and she told me that the guy has always been there and been a grouch and growing up, the kids were all scared of him.

Tonight while we were getting Graham ready for bed, I spotted Oscar the Grouch digging through our trash again. The more I think about it, the more I don’t like having him go through our trash. Sure, he’s probably harmless but what if he decided to go the identity theft route? And also, it just plain annoys me that he thinks he has the right to just dig through our garbage without even asking. Am I overreacting here or should I put a stop to this guy?

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  1. Christy

    I don’t know…I wouldn’t like that either. It’s kind of creepy. I guess if he was collecting cans to get money for them b/c he was broke, I might let it slide, but that doesn’t sound like it’s the case, so I think I’d call him out. It’s just weird.

  2. Laufa

    That is considered stealing, so you can report him. The trash can is your property and so are the contents in them. It’s a different story if the trash is just laying on the curb. Do you have any cop friends or a crime watch in your neighborhood you could talk to about this?

    Laufas last blog post..Chinita Monkey

  3. carrie

    Tuff call. Yes, it is stealing but, well it seams harmless. To do it regularly is weird. OK, I have a sick 4 year old on my lap so my comment is bifurcated and, well, don’t know. bye.

    carries last blog post..Pen Vote! (5/30)

  4. Keely

    We have a few of those. They don’t go through the recycling, since it’s put out front, but they go down the alley going through bins. I kind of see them as performing a useful function in that case – stuff that wouldn’t get recycled otherwise, does. I even put the glass (which our province won’t recycle) beside the bins for them so they don’t have to root around.

    …my neighbours probably don’t appreciate that, but, meh.

    Keelys last blog post..Random Tuesday Thoughts

  5. Corina

    Is he just going through the recycling, or is he going through the trash. If it is just the recycling, I wouldn’t worry too much about it. He most likely is just going through it to earn $ for deposit. If it is the other trash, it would creep me out a bit. Make sure you shred the identity stuff, then you won’t have to worry too much about it.

    Corinas last blog post..And the lights went out

  6. Jim

    It’s sorta creepy. I would go out and talk to him and ask, “Is there anything you would like me to put out separately for you?” just to see what he says. If he gives you any crap, then I’d report him.

    On another note: There’s an award for you at my blog.

    Jims last blog post..Awards

  7. DeeMarie

    I would agree that it could be a tough call. I have a friend who dumpster-dives and then takes stuff and fixes it… and this guy could be taking the cans for money to supplement his very limited income. But I think he should ask first. I don’t blame you at all for being bothered by it!!

    Oh, and honey, you can post about anything you want on your blog!! 😉

    DeeMaries last blog post..I Quit Being Political Years Ago

  8. Shieldmaiden1196

    If he’s taking cans to get the deposit or whatever, I’d just put them in a bag so he can grab it and go. Times are tough…Either way they are getting recycled, and someone else is getting helped out in the process.

    Shieldmaiden1196s last blog post..The Audacity of Soap

  9. jenni

    Umm, are you sure that’s a guy? Because it sounds like something Jenbo would be into, particularly the scooter. And the scowling.

    Seriously, I would not put up with it. I don’t like that kind of think either.

    jennis last blog post..Random Bits #4

  10. HeatherPride

    NO, definitely not. With all the identity theft hullaballoo going on? Not welcome, sorry. If it’s meant to be given away, it’s put on the curb – not in the trash can.

    HeatherPrides last blog post..Playground Rules

  11. Cape Cod Gal

    That is creepy, but here in Mass garbage put out on the road can be searched by the police and is consider public property.

    I am the ultimate recycler. I drive Big K nuts. I’m always screeching “Don’t throw that away. It goes in recycling”

    Cape Cod Gals last blog post..And Good Mounds Bar To You Too!

  12. Toni

    That would creep me out at well. We don’t have curb side recycling – but we do recycle. Some places in our city do but we don’t. It really is no problem to take it to the recycling center…

    Tonis last blog post..Wordless Wednesday – Edition 25

  13. Heather

    I don’t think it’s weird at all. Personally if I knew what he was looking for I would seperate it out just for him so that he wouldn’t have to go through your whole recycle bin. He’s harmless. Just needing a little extra money.

    Heathers last blog post..I’ll miss Tina….

  14. mrsbear

    I would be pretty creeped out as well, but I’d probably feel bad for him too. He’s probably just collecting aluminum. Is there any way for you to know what he’s yanking out? It’s a tough call since you really don’t know what his motivations are. I would say shred your papers anyway, but keep an eye on him.

    mrsbears last blog post..Too Bad, Sooo Sad

  15. Beth

    I suggest asking him what he’s looking for and tell him that what he’s doing is making you uncomfortable. The identity theft is a huge issue around my area and that’s probably what he’s trying to do to you.

  16. goodfather

    Yeah, I’m in camp tough call too. ID theft would be my biggest worry, but if he’s harmless… meh. I don’t know.

    McCain in 08!!! Wait, is it over?

    goodfathers last blog post..Spin Cycle: ‘Change has come to America’

  17. Jonny's Mommy

    OK. Yeah. That man is a freak and scary! Call the cops! And then write about it. Today. Thank you.

    Jonny’s Mommys last blog post..Tales from Election Days Past

  18. Katie

    Yeah, definitely creepy. I don’t know, I’d be weirded out, but also feel kind of sorry for the guy. Just make sure you shred your papers, but other than that I think I would let him do his thing (as long it’s not getting progressively more bold)

    Katies last blog post..A Brief History of the United States of America…Just Kidding, sorta

  19. Live More Now

    That’s straight up weird, even if he is a little off. You could stink bomb him – I’m sure those harmless but funny gadgets are being sold somewhere near you and always online, or get a blow horn and next time he rolls up, just shout at him from your window so you don’t actually have to be near him while at the same time alerting all your neighbors on the entire street that weirdo is on the prowl again. It is illegal to go through someone else’s garbage so you could booby trap it in a number of safe but alarming ways and maybe he’d learn to stay away with a few inconvenient sprays in the face with orange paint.

    Live More Nows last blog post..If You Liked It Then You Shoulda Put a Ring On It

  20. blissfully caffeinated

    I see where you would be torn. On one hand, the guy may be making a few bucks that he might really need by recycling stuff that will just end up being recycled anyway.

    On the other hand, a freaking creepy ass mean dude is digging through your personal stuff. Yes, it’s stuff that is soon to be recycled, but that may include beer cans, tampon boxes, mail, etc.

    What he’s doing is probably illegal, so you could alert authorities. Again, though (sorry, I’m a Libra), your local authorities probably already know homeboy. And may not be so inclined to step in and do anything about this problem.

    If it really bothers you (I know it would bother me) just talk to the guy. Or have your husband do it. Let him know that you would rather he stay out of your trash. I bet he would respect that.

    Alternatively, you could put anything worth money like bottles and cans in a separate grocery bag and set them out so that dude can just grab and go without digging through your stuff.

    Good luck!

    blissfully caffeinateds last blog post..Get Up and Go Vote!

  21. Elisa

    I would open my door and yell at him if I saw him doing it. I think you are right to worry about identity theft.

    We have a guy like that in the town next to us who rides round IN the road on one of those wheelchair scooter type things. I hate it. Get on the sidewalk. They are not cars!

    Elisas last blog post..Wordless Wednesday

  22. Elle Charlie

    I agree that I wouldn’t worry as much about recycling (unless you do paper recycling and it’s mail, etc.) but trash would worry me a bit.

    Elle Charlies last blog post..Barack on!

  23. feener

    it would piss me off. period.

    feeners last blog post..Jean Jacket

  24. Captain Dumbass

    We have a couple of old ladies that do the same thing, they’re just looking for things they can take in for money. If you’re worried about identity theft just make sure you shred anything that has your adddress or personal info on it.

    Captain Dumbasss last blog post..Guest Post

  25. Petra

    hmmm…tough one for me, but I am also one of those people that always gives bums my spare change cause it just makes me SO SAD. So I would probably feel weird about it but wouldn’t want to stop him if he was just looking for bottles and cans to get for some change. *sigh. I’m just not sure!

    Petras last blog post..Crazy Mommy Seeks Vacation

  26. Ferd

    You’ll be interested to know that Princess Gail and I had a little discussion about this post. I asked her if it was legal for anyone to rummage through our garbage. She said no. Then I reminded her that in all the cop shows, they are allowed to go through garbage, but for anything else they seem to need a warrant. So we think this bum actually has a right to rummage through your stuff, weird as that sounds. I’m going to check into this further. I’m thinking there is a certain number of feet from the curb that is considered safe for general access. If so, you’ll have a hard time with this guy, unless you make your garbage less attractive.

    See, that’s what you get for having attractive junk! You can quote me on that one! ; )

  27. Kat@MotherFonker

    I like going green and all, and at his age, maybe he is just looking for extra income… what’re the chances an old guy will steal id info? hmm… just shred. or ask him, as they suggested.

    That also happened with me first time i moved to my neighborhood. I was pissed because the scrounger left the trash scattered all over the place!

    So to not piss me off anymore, I just wait for when the trash truck arrives, and only then drag out the trash.

    Crazy thing to do at 5:50am… but the unholiest hour the trash guy appears on my street is 7am.

  28. Ferd

    Here is a link with a 1988 Supreme Court decision about this very issue:

  29. The Stiletto Mom

    I know it’s going to shock you that I’m going to take the, ahem, crabby route. I would really be against that. Even if it’s trash, it’s your personal trash and what if you accidentally throw a bank statement in there? Also, he is on your property which I am FREAKISH about. I’m sure he is someone who has fallen on, and apparently stayed in, tough times but really…thats just not cool.

  30. Katie

    Really creepy!!

    Sorry I haven’t checked in for club HASAY… Haven’t had much time…and when I do get on the computer my husband want the computer…like now! I’m gonna try to get a post done tonight, we’ll see….

  31. steenky bee

    Can I recycle a post? I’m tapped out. At work (architects) we are big-time green. They have sustainability lunch meetings twice a month. Somehow, I can’t get the secretaries to order from somewhere that doesn’t package all their food in styrofoam containers.

  32. Sprite's Keeper

    Maybe this is related to the rat? Either way, creeped out! If he’s rifling through your stuff, I see a whole lot of privacy issues at stake. Imagine him coming up to you with coupons for (YOU KNOW) because he knows when (YOU KNOW!) is coming! I mean, that alone! Ew!

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