Is It Against The Law To Nick Stuff From A Hard Rubbish Pile?

When and where you can get your kerb pilfering on

They say “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”. And never is that more apparent than when it’s time for hard rubbish.

It’s a mighty suburban moment, when neighbourhood nature strips are filled with all manner of cast-offs.

So surely saving rejected household items from an inglorious landfill graveyard should be OK, right? After all, reusing is even better than recycling.

And for those councils that still have hard rubbish week, it could be the ultimate free swap meet.

But legally, it can be stickier than that vinyl couch cushion from number 27.

The laws vary greatly, not just from state to state, but from council to council.

An ABC investigation has found that in most capital cities, any junk left on the kerb is fair game for scavenging. But usually this is because there’s no specific law against it.

A statement from the City of Melbourne said it “does not have a specific local law on the practice of searching through hard waste. If a hard waste collection is booked and the items are placed out but a third party collects the waste before City of Melbourne contractors, it is not an offence."

However the City of Sydney warns that "Our legal advice is that anyone who picks up items left outside for bulky waste pick up is doing so at their own risk."

So at least there’s a certain illicit thrill left, which is frequently the best reason to go trawling through other people’s junk.

In Darwin, they encourage consultation: "Technically the rubbish belongs to the person who put it there until it is removed by Council. If there is something in a pile that people would like to reuse, as a courtesy, they should try to contact the person who put it there to ask if it is OK to take."

This raises more questions. If it technically belongs to the person, are they just dumping it on council property?

And if you would like your junk to go to a new home rather than hit the tip, then there are other options. For instance a garage sale. Or, even more proactively, a doorknocking campaign to offload your unwanted crap.

Featured image: City of Monash