It's trash day. Everyone knows - it's sort of an unwritten rule - that if you want to get rid of something, you put it on the side of the road just before garbage day, and presto! Like magic, it'll be gone within a matter of hours.

An old piano bench, a dishwasher that leaked like a submarine with a screendoor, carpet that was installed when Ronal Reagan was president - we've seen it all go long before the garbage men even had a chance.

(Also noteworthy:  We've seen the garbage collectors pick stuff out of our bins and stash it in the cab of the truck. We must throw away some good stuff, I tell ya.)

But Is It Legal to Go Through Someone's Trash?

Well, it's complicated.

The state of Michigan has deemed that garbage placed at the side of the road becomes public property and therefore fair game for trash pickers, some communities have their own laws in place which can make it illegal to scavenge others' trash. The Detroit Free Press noted in 2019 that many Metro Detroit communities have adopted ordiances that make it illegal to pilpher items placed at the side of the road for garbage collection.

In other words, your mielege may vary.

So How About Dumpster Diving?

Once again, the answer is ambiguous. Diving into a dumpster and digging for treasure is not an illegal activity in Michigan. Money Worths noted earlier that this year that Michigan law does not prohibit people from going through the contents of dumpsters found on public property, but cautions that some cities and townships may have ordinaces that prohibit it.

Cities including (but not limited to) Detroit, Wrren, and Ann Arbor have made it illegal to go into dumpsters or to remove items citizens have placed on the side of the road for garbage collection.

Diving into a dumpster on private property where there is a no trespassing sign is expressly prohibited and could lead to fines or even arrest.


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