Digging Through Trash: Is It A Crime?

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RENO - Some local residents have noticed a new trend in the Truckee Meadows, one that most likely stems from our struggling economy. Many people say they've witnessed "recycle scavengers" in their neighborhoods in recent weeks...people who dig through your recycling bin, hoping to make a few bucks.

The Waste Management Recycling Center on Sutro and Commercial Way in Reno is is the place to go if you have certain recyclable items you'd like to sell, or just get rid of.

People we spoke with say they go there whenever they have enough garbage to make a trip worthwhile...but lately, they've been going there a little less often.

So let's say it's your neighborhood's garbage pick-up day, and you put your recyclables out on the curb as usual...but soon enough, someone comes along and snags a can or two.

It's happening in our area...so, what do people think?

"Great, use it, take it," said Charlotte Cox of Reno.

For the most part, people say they don't care what happens to their recyclables once they're out on the street, as long as they get recycled.

"I said I don't want it. I set it out there, so what difference does it make to me if someone else picks it up, uses it, makes money on it?" said Cox.

But others say they have concerns about theft, loitering, or trespassing. Waste Management officials say they have an answer for that too.

Recyclables sitting in a bin belong to the resident, until they're picked up by the recycling company...then they're the property of Waste Management. So if someone takes a can, it's technically not legal, but probably not too big of a concern for most people.

Many say in times of need, they're actually surprised more people aren't scavenging through trash.

"I come about once a month, save my cardboard, cans and glass. Seems like the right thing to do," said Reno Resident, Michael Jackson.

Plus, you can make a little money along the way. In Nevada and California, Waste Management will actually pay you by the pound for items you'd normally just toss out...and for some, it's worth the trouble.

"If you saved all your beer bottles, you'd have enough to buy another case of beer," added Jackson.

The buy-back rates for recyclable items vary from state-to-state. For instance, aluminum cans go for 25 cents a pound in Nevada...but in California, you can get $1.50 per pound...so obviously, California's rates are quite a bit more generous.

Do keep in mind, it is illegal to take recyclables you purchased in Nevada and to try to redeem them in California.

For specific buyback rates for our state, as well as our neighbors in California, go to our home page and click on Hot Topics.