The Water Cooler – People Who Dig Through Your Trash to Collect Recylables

December 28, 2012 12:00 pm · 63 comments

The “Water Cooler” is a feature on where we ask you a question or provide a topic, and you talk about it!

The “Water Cooler” will be up Monday-Friday in the noon hour.

We got this email from a Claycordian this week:

We live in a neighborhood near Concord High and today a man with yellow rubber gloves and a garbage bag came down our street and went through each of our recycling cans and picked out the bottles and cans. He spent quite a bit of time going through our can as we usually have many of them.

My husband would have confronted him and given him a hard time if he were home but it broke my heart to see him rummaging through our cans. He must be desperate. On the other hand, however, I feel like it is an invasion of privacy to have someone going though my garbage. I’m a bit torn.

I’m the type of person who wants to help anyone I can who is going through a hard time but I am also aware of the fact that some people will do anything to feed a drug habit so I would prefer to donate money to organizations.

What would other Claycordians do?

Talk about it….

Indeed December 28, 2012 at 12:05 PM

I hate to see that as well . We don’t put plastic bottles in the trash company’s recycle, we take them to a station. A few months back I saw a guy in my recycle trash and I yelled at him and told him he was stealing from the trash company,he left and I’ve not seen anyone around doing that to anyone’s trash since.

SAR December 28, 2012 at 12:09 PM

I see no harm with someone whom may be down on their luck and are looking to make an extra buck through recycling… I pay good money to the garbage company who comes and picks up my recyclables and make a profit on top of what I already pay.

Patricia Hill December 28, 2012 at 12:13 PM

It’s a felony.

Parsnip December 28, 2012 at 12:14 PM

It’s not public property. I would get him away from it immediately. If he refused, I’d call the cops. If he’s that destitute, he can bargain with the dump. (We rarely get them where I live because of the hills. One time an individual actually removed the trash bag, and took the trash can to use as a waterproof shopping cart. I met up with her about a mile away and took it back.)

Connie Dobbs December 28, 2012 at 12:17 PM

Why would you throw out anything ‘private?’

Lori December 28, 2012 at 12:19 PM

I don’t mind so much someone going through my recycle can, they must be desperate. I just wish they would pick up the trash they throw on the ground in order to get to the bottom of the can !!! Be neat about it or STAY OUT of my garbage !!! I shred anything that has personal info on it.

Don't Censor Me Bro December 28, 2012 at 12:20 PM

I believe your local ordinace will specify to whom it belongs. It may be waste management (company) or the city, once you put it on the curb. Anyone?

Cowellian December 28, 2012 at 12:24 PM

It’s illegal for someone to remove recyclables from your recycle bin. However, it’s perfectly legal for you to take your own CRV items to a recycling center instead of putting it in your bin.

For what it’s worth, your garbage rates are based on the garbage company making a certain amount of money from your recyclables. If they don’t make enough from recyclables, your rates will go up.

Julie December 28, 2012 at 12:26 PM

1) You will never be able to stop someone from doing this—trash company doesn’t care, police have better things to do.
2) it is up to YOU to find a solution—it is an invasion of privacy. It can be a noise concern (if it’s early enough, in front of your bedroom window area?)
3) it really doesn’t matter WHY a person does this—it is never going to be your concern, and will never be a reason enough to allow/not allow the person to trespass on your property, take your property, take the trash companies property.
4) you husband could have confronted the person if he were home, but that has never been enough to stop someone from doing this.
5) this happens in my neighborhood too–an asian dude (doesn’t look like a druggie, but who knows) on a bicycle rides thru, with a big plastic trash bag, and collects what he wants. I think it looks horrible, feels like an invasion of privacy, and it isn’t even on my street!
unless you get a trashcan lock (not practical, probably not legal from the trash companies point of view) there will never be a solution.
other than to just get the dude “moved along”. and good luck with getting that done!

On Guard December 28, 2012 at 12:26 PM

Tough call. Its honorable to be compassionate and caring, but often they are looking for information that they can sell to other bad guys that pay them for it so they can steal your identification and use it primarily for credit card fraud. It might take you a bit longer to clean up your credit and good name than it will take you to tell them to get out of your garbage.

B December 28, 2012 at 12:27 PM

At least the guy was working for his money. I respect that.

rkt88edmo December 28, 2012 at 12:29 PM

Not sure about he claycord area – but in some cities/districts it is illegal for someone to pull out your recyclables, they are considered city property when the bins are put out to the curb as the proceeds from recycling go to the city.

I generally don’t like it because:
1 – I don’t want vagrants around my house
2 – I’ve had some in the past that would make a HUGE racket and wake me up with the clatter of glass bottles.

jtkatec December 28, 2012 at 12:31 PM

I try to place me plastics bottle in separate bag near the top of the bin.

Some of the people I have found rummaging through the garbage are senior citizens and my heart goes out to them, reduced to supplement their income by this actiivity.

Parsnip December 28, 2012 at 12:39 PM

I agree with Connie re: not putting “private info” in the trash. Even my address gets shredded. I am unaware of “ownership” rights once its at the curb. Even if they do exist — don’t go through my trash.

Andrew December 28, 2012 at 12:51 PM

If you feel like it is an invasion of your privacy, shred all of your important documents.

Rum Runner December 28, 2012 at 12:52 PM

I live in an apartment complex and we have a lady here who is unemployed and daily rumages through the building’s trash bin looking for items to put in the recycle bin. She has made it her life’s work. The neighbors hate her going throught the trash but nobody, and I do mean nobody in the building throws anything in the recycle bin. It’s always empty when I throw my recycling in it, but the regular bin is always full of cardboard, beer cases, plastic bottles, glass bottles, tin cans… Nobody seems to care about recycling these days.

anonymous December 28, 2012 at 12:57 PM

Its not a felony. The garbage company does care. The PD doesn’t. Some poor guy needs to root around in garbage cans to survive doesn’t get me indignant

annie2u December 28, 2012 at 12:59 PM

I have an old topless plastic storage box that I put my recycling in and set beside my trash bins and recycling container in clear view from the street. I put anything that can be reused or sold into it. On collection day I move it all out to the curb. What’s left I throw into the recyling for the following week. It seems to work well. The pickers don’t go through my trash or recycling and make a lot of noise or a mess.

I pay for trash and recycling, but it is my choice – not the city’s or Concord Disposal’s – to allow someone else to take what they want.

cowell park anon December 28, 2012 at 1:08 PM

I live on Roslyn Dr. off of Clayton Rd. Both my recycle and garbage cans are gone through between 3am and 5am the morning of trash pickup. This has happened every time for the last six weeks. They rip open the trash bags in my garbage and sometimes will take all the recycle items out of the can then fill it with non-recyclable items from my trash can. The garbage company then shows up and wont empty my recycle can because it is filled with garbage. I then have to dump out the garbage and put it back in the correct can. One time i found my recycle can full of my garbage and my garbage can full of someone elses garbage. I have also noticed items missing from my front porch on garbage days. On a seperate note , a homeless man was sitting in front of Caspers hotdogs begging for money. I asked him what for and he said to get something to eat. Insted of giving him money i asked if he wanted a hot dog. He said yes and make shure it had cheese and he would also need a soda. I bought it for him and he said thanks then started to eat. I went into Berkshire books for a few minutes and when i came out the homeless man was gone. What was left was a big mess. The bag, hotdog wrapper, napkins and empty soda cup left in the middle of the walkway just twenty feet from the garbage can. I cleaned up his mess and left. I will never help out a homeless person again.

anon December 28, 2012 at 1:10 PM

I figure the trash companies are stealing from me and forcing us to subsidize the recycling system. I don’t mind if people take stuff from my recycling bin and if I see someone doing that to the neighbors, I’ll bag up what I’ve got and give it to them.

What I don’t like is anyone going through my actual trash. That’s an identity theft issue and while we are careful to shred everything, something could slip through. I also don’t want them making a mess. I’ve noticed that most of the recycle collectors are careful, but potential identity thieves care nothing about leaving behind trash all over the ground.

I agree with #18. It’s my choice who gets my recycling. What I put in the bin is not the property of the trash company until they come to pick it up.

Parsnip December 28, 2012 at 1:37 PM

@17 — It might not get you “indignant,” but it sure as heck doesn’t get ME stupid. It’s a lovely way of casing an area to determine what the local reaction is to strangers on the block; and if anyone “reacts” to them digging through their trash.

So you go right ahead and show your amiability and self-restraint to possible crooks. Only be honest and list your address while you’re at it.

Blink December 28, 2012 at 1:39 PM

we don’t have alot of bottles/cans but i do put in separate plastic bag…
if it helps someone …leave it between cans

Digger (Not in Concord anymore) December 28, 2012 at 1:42 PM

I used to have this same problem when I lived in Berkeley years ago. I’ll tell you how to stop this from happening. Break all glass ahead of time, let some food rot for a month or more (rotten milk is great as well as eggs) and put those in there, LOTS of old extremely sharp rusty fishhooks (sizes 14 all the way up to 1/0, treble hooks and straight hooks). The best I think is to wipe your ass and throw the used TP in the trash can and mix that in with the recycling and the garbage, I would also piss into my cans sometimes. Put anything that is ultra nasty in there, they’ll stop coming around when they realize your cans have fecal matter covered broken glass in it and tetanus ridden sharp objects. Give it a few weeks and they’ll never be back. Happy hunting.

JRConcord December 28, 2012 at 1:43 PM

Mr Mayor,
Is this a test? Did you not run a story about the garbage company contracting with the city for a “Garbage Cop” or something like that a couple months ago?

Anonymous December 28, 2012 at 1:44 PM

If someone has fallen on hard times and is going though items that someone has discarded why would anyone care? As long as it isnt private/personal information, why would anyone care if they collected your cans if its the difference between them starving or having a meal? And if they are using the $$ drugs what difference does that make? Thats there issue….not anyone elses, and if it bothers you, stop putting recycling out and donate it if thats your preference.

Big ugly dude December 28, 2012 at 1:50 PM

@Julie #9

You’re wrong. It is possible to make people stop going through your recycling. We had that problem a while back, so I went outside and confronted the guy. The next week, he was at it again, so I confronted him again, a little more aggressively this time. Now, he crosses the street when he gets to my house. He won’t go anywhere NEAR my cans.

@ #25 December 28, 2012 at 1:53 PM

Maybe some of us don’t want a bunch of thieving drug addicts hanging around our houses. Since you don’t seem to mind, maybe you can post your address and we’ll send them all your way.

MTZ native December 28, 2012 at 1:55 PM

When I lived in my apratment on Broadway Street our cans would be rumaged through. Wasnt an issue but I drew the line when they would rip open the bags and throw the stuff on the ground and not even pick up the mess. The worst part was when they did this to the Bathroom garbage! tampon/pads laying all over the place and wrappers blowing down the street.

So here’s what I did: If your going to do this im going make it worth the effort. I made sure to put all the grease and nasty liquides all over the bags when id put them in the can. Dog poop on the top and the whole nine yards. Needless to say my garbage was the only not rumaged through by week 3 🙂

Also these are some hard times for everyone! I recycle all my cans, bottles and glass and I put the funds form this in my daughters savings. Garbage company gets the other recyclables.


Wisecracker December 28, 2012 at 2:01 PM

If sifting through your recycle can bothers you, contact your local Boy Scouts. My neighborhood has a troop who comes by EVERY Saturday the first Saturday of each month, rain or shine. There are boy scouts of all ages and their parents or leaders. They will collect your recycle items at the curb. I stopped giving my recycleable items to my garbage service years ago. Why would anyone give your items to them for them to make money off them when you are paying them for a service? Doesn’t make much sense to me. If you don’t want to lug your stuff the a nearby recycle facility, then consider the boy scouts. It pays for their camp trips each summer, among other things. Makes me feel good every month – my way of paying it forward.

For those interested, contact Dave at (925) 914-0827 to find out if they canvas your neighborhood. I live in the Turtle Creek area, where I know they currently pick up in a wide area. Perhaps he can assist you in finding a troop in your area if they don’t cover your neighborhood.

Mr. John December 28, 2012 at 2:02 PM

@ Digger – If you intentionally create a dangerous environment with the apparent purpose of causing harm (or risking that harm will be caused) to others, you’re asking for trouble – even if someone won’t be hurt unless they break the law. And for those that think this is a funny idea – please remember that certain things should not be thrown in the trash or recyclying because they can react badly with other things that should be in there. It can cause fires, and other problems. I remember a story about 20 years back in which chemicals mixed in a garbage truck and it ended up trailing a cloud of gas through a residential neighborhood that did serious damage to the lungs of a lot of residents…

Mac December 28, 2012 at 2:03 PM

I have a female neighbor, that goes around each Sunday night. (our trash pick up is Monday)
And gets all kinds of recycle and other things out of containers put out by the people living around us.
She makes a lot of trips, bringing back bags full of stuff back to her house.
She does it right after it gets dark, so it`d harder to see her.

She is from another country.
And speaks no english.
I guess this is her way of making money, for their house full of family members that live in the one house with her.

ConcordMike December 28, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Here’s a solution if it bothers you that people go through your trash.
Set your alarm for 5am the day of pick-up and roll your cans to the curb.
The dumpster divers usually go through the cans the night before.

You could also put a sign on the can each week that reads, “No Dumpster Diving Please. We Report all Violators.”

Curious December 28, 2012 at 2:44 PM

I live by the Pavilion and I have only once seen someone go through our garbage. Only they had rearranged the bags and other thrown out items so the lid didn’t close within 6″ as required. Concord Waste didn’t pick up our trash because of it. I called Concord Waste and never heard anything back. It took 3 weeks to finally get rid of all of the trash due to the build up.
Side Note: only thing in the trash was food waste and Styrofoam. He got nothing and I got a hassle.

Digger (Not in Concord anymore) December 28, 2012 at 2:50 PM

I can recycle and throw away whatever I want. What would you like me to do with old fishhooks? The only ones asking for trouble is the POS going through my garbage to steal my personal information, and if they get covered in crap or get hurt then it is not my problem. I don’t throw away and chemicals so that part of your scenario doesn’t apply to me. Lets post your address on here so recycling thieves can frequent your no stink tidy can. Douche bag.

Digger (Not in Concord anymore) December 28, 2012 at 2:51 PM

post 32 was @ 30

Digger (Not in Concord anymore) December 28, 2012 at 3:00 PM


Sounds like she and the rest of the folks living near you need to be shipped back to wherever they came from.

Jeff December 28, 2012 at 3:08 PM

I don’t have an issue with people digging through the cans for recycling, BUT….how do you know that’s what they are after?

many identity thieves use this guise to search your mail for credit card and other personal info. This is where it becomes a problem.

I’m generally the type to ask you to leave nicely- and if you don’t, I explain why, and then ask you to leave again. If you don’t – well, then I just call WCPD and have them take you off the property. Works well enough for me.

toyou December 28, 2012 at 3:31 PM

I use to work at the recycling center and I will say it is illegal. All of the collectors iv met are pritty nice people. And if you ask them not to go through your cans theyll stop. It shouldnt be happening in yhe first place but if you yell its just going to make them come in the earlier hours

Rudolph (^•)>* December 28, 2012 at 4:35 PM

I’ve confronted a woman who was picking through the cans. I called the garbage company and the cops and took pictures of her. She yelled at me flipped me off and when the cops came tried to ride her bike away. It is illegal for anyone to go through the cans. If it is on your property they are stealing from you. If it is on the street they are stealing from the garbage company. The garbage rates are as low as they are because the garbage company gets money for the recycling. If the vagrants continue to pilfer the rates will increase. The woman I confronted thought she found a loophole in that she was going through cans on a street with no sidewalks. None of the cans were on the “street” they were on the dirt burm. Sorry, stealing is stealing. I don’t want to invite anyone onto my street that doesn’t already live there. Especially someone who gives no thought to breaking the law.

Finding a boyscout troop in your area is a fantastic idea. We will pick up your recycling and it goes to a good cause. You can find your local troops online.

@ Digger(Not In Concord anymore) December 28, 2012 at 5:47 PM

What a relief………………………………………………………………………………

…that you moved!!!!!

Always Right December 28, 2012 at 5:54 PM

Goodpoint, parsnip- burgulars could use the recycling excuse as a ruse to case a neighborhood or a particular home.

Don’t assume these people are harmless down and out types. Most are addicts and some may be worse.

kiarfy December 28, 2012 at 6:08 PM

It is better to tell them stop when you see them so they won’t make a mess–and putting the cans and bottles in plastic bags is the right thing to do. This makes the recyclable available for all who need them.

anon December 28, 2012 at 6:12 PM

“but it broke my heart to see him rummaging through our cans. ”


On a seperate note , a homeless man was sitting in front of Caspers hotdogs begging for money. I asked him what for and he said to get something to eat. Insted of giving him money i asked if he wanted a hot dog. He said yes and make shure it had cheese and he would also need a soda. I bought it for him and he said thanks then started to eat. I went into Berkshire books for a few minutes and when i came out the homeless man was gone. What was left was a big mess. The bag, hotdog wrapper, napkins and empty soda cup left in the middle of the walkway just twenty feet from the garbage can. I cleaned up his mess and left. I will never help out a homeless person again.


Almondgirl December 28, 2012 at 6:20 PM

It is illegal. This has happened twice in my neighborhood and I have called the police because the guy was going through everyones cans and leaving a mess on the street.The police came both times. The first time they made him clean up and let him go. The second time they made him clean up again and then he went in the back of the police car. Have not had a problem since.

Teacher Wannabe December 28, 2012 at 6:41 PM

@SAR: its not profit. The recycling helps defray the cost of collection. It actually costs more than we pay to run the overall refuse program.

kirk December 28, 2012 at 7:18 PM

I don’t really mind, i know it’s illegal but I have a hard time coming down on some poor mexican lady (in my neighborhood anyway) looking for cans. She has never caused a problem.

The tweekers looking to do break-ins and steal relevant property, yeah, them I’d give the pepper spray and axe handle tune up.

Able To Leap kinda December 28, 2012 at 7:52 PM

No, No, No it’s not “Garbage Cop” it’s, CAPTAIN CAN ! ! !
Think the big hold up was, they couldn’t decide on a color for the cape . . . didn’t want it to clash with the chartreuse unitard.

Laura Zah December 28, 2012 at 8:11 PM

Anon # 43 Go look at the mess he left behind Casper’s (watch your step).

Mt. Tri-ablo Times December 28, 2012 at 8:25 PM

Testing Screen Name

Really? December 28, 2012 at 8:50 PM

I don’t roll out my cans until the morning of collection. I got tired of the noise and mess. My kids take all our recycling to the station anyway. There’s no money they could make off the stuff that’s left in our recycling bin.

Chevrolet girl December 28, 2012 at 9:19 PM

I was up one morning at 4 am and a light blue van rolled up to our cans, he methodically went thru our recycling, passed up the cans and bottles but looked at any papers with his flashlight and threw what he wanted into the van. Luckily I shred anything important. I went outside and told him to leave that I was calling the police. He then drove four houses up and went thru our neighbors while I called the police. They said that it was the recycle companies problem. They didnt seemed to care that it was possible identity theft. Haven’t seen him around here for a while.

ed December 28, 2012 at 10:36 PM

ive come to the conclusion that i’d rather have the old guy in the neighborhood getting the recycles and not the previous tweaker that used to come around every week. its going to continue, so might as well see it as theyre keeping out the tweakers that eventually start taking anything not bolted down.

ed December 28, 2012 at 10:37 PM

remember, best protection for identity theft is to freeze your credit.

JRConcord December 29, 2012 at 6:39 AM

My favorite is to mix kitchen grease, used kitty litter, and used coffee grounds and dump loosely on top of dumpster..I have used wet paint and bleach too ohh and a big big container of cayanee pepper

kiarfy December 29, 2012 at 8:50 AM


“It is better to tell the ones who take the cans stop when you see them so they won’t make a mess–and putting the cans and bottles in plastic bags is the right thing to do; this makes that recyclable available for all who need it.”

kiarfy December 29, 2012 at 1:13 PM

definitely agitated. why?

Roberto December 29, 2012 at 2:04 PM

I used to live in a Concord apartment where a fellow regularly went through our trash bin. He was an enterprising chap with an educated voice and had evidently found away to both exercise and pay for his satellite television bill. I know that he is depriving the waste company of valuable revenue for which they pay the city a hefty franchise fee, but hell, if they want their bottles and cans so much let them come and get them first.

FYI December 29, 2012 at 2:24 PM

I’m about 99% sure that once your trash has been put out to the curb in the street. Their is no legal reason why ANYBODY can’t dig through your trash and take what they please. The city does try to close local recycling places on days a close by neighborhood has a trash pick up. But otherwise… Deal with it, or store it in your house and throughout your property.. Yup

Cowellian December 29, 2012 at 4:04 PM

I’m 99% sure that you’re only guessing.

SH December 29, 2012 at 9:24 PM

I don’t mind people digging through my recycling bin. What annoys me is when they take all the trash out of the regular trash bin and just leave it thrown all over the tops of the other bins and on the driveway. I just went out tonight and bought a cable lock to secure the trash bin because the trash digger did it again. There were turkey bones and fish parts torn out of a trash bag and thrown all over the driveway again. I put all the recyclables in the blue bin, but they have to dig through the trash bin too and make a mess, SO THE PARTY IS OVER, THE LOCK GOES ON TOMORROW MORNING.

anon December 30, 2012 at 12:02 AM

It does not bother me. No one had ever left a mess and they are always very nice about it. One man even helped me break up some larger wood I
could not fit into the regular garbage. And another man used to bring his son with him who attended the same school as my son. Its really not that big a deal.

Dragon January 3, 2013 at 10:15 AM
ChampagneKitty January 3, 2013 at 11:01 AM

Thanks, Dragon!

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