What Is Scavenging?
Scavenging is a term that describes an individual who makes a practice of going through commercial or residential garbage and recycling containers and removing items that have a value in the recycling marketplace.

Is Scavenging Illegal?
Simply put, yes, scavenging is illegal. There are local, state, and federal laws that all make scavenging an illegal activity. Your garbage and recycling service is a business transaction and contract between you and your community and your waste hauler. Under this contract, your waste hauler provides (at their cost) appropriate containers for garbage disposal and recycling. They provide (at their cost) regularly scheduled collection service, special collection events, community outreach, and many other services that benefit the community. Removing items from bins designated for the collection of recyclables such as cardboard, metal and aluminum cans is considered a theft.

Why Is It A Problem?
Scavenging is a problem because those who scavenge through trash containers often remove trash items to find valuable recyclable items mistakenly placed in them. Quite often, scavengers leave the trash outside of the bins, leaving a mess for property owners to clean up.

Identity Theft!
Many scavengers are not looking for recyclable materials but are looking for sensitive personal information about you that can assist them in applying for credit in your name or stealing your identity for various illegal purposes. Please always shred or completely destroy items of a sensitive nature.

Scavenging of cardboard dumpsters and recycling bins is also problematic. Please remember that you, the rate-payer pay for an entire service package that includes your recycling containers. The sale of recyclable materials by your waste hauler is calculated into the cost of service. Recycling helps keep collection rates down and pays for recycling carts, trucks, and collection service. If recyclable materials are stolen, the cost of service increases.

What Should You Do If You See Someone Scavenging Through Your Garbage?
Do not confront the scavenger. Call the police or stop by your local police station in your community and file a report. You can report to the police details such as time and day of the occurrence, your street name, a physical description of the scavenger, and a description or license plate number of their vehicle (if it is easily seen from the safety of your home or business). The Monterey County non-emergency dispatch number is: 831-755-5111.