If you’ve been wondering about something in your community, Ask The Times is your place to get answers. The following questions were submitted by readers and answered through the efforts of our news staff.
My neighborhood has seen an increase in dumpster diving. Is there a city or county ordinance that prohibits the practice and makes it punishable if caught?
According to Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes, there is no county ordinance that specifically prohibits removing someone else’s trash.
“The typical rule of thumb is garbage is abandoned property,” she said. “Anyone can go through it and get anything out of it unless there are other circumstances.”
However, in some instances, authorities can arrest someone for criminal trespassing or loitering if the dumpster is on private property, but the county has not had many cases of this, Bailes said.
In the city of Gainesville, there is an ordinance that prohibits removing trash from dumpsters, garbage receptacles or recycling receptacles, but city code enforcement has never issued a citation for it, said code enforcement manager Gary Kansky.
“Most of the time it is a homeless person trying to get something they can recycle,” he said. “Some people don’t have jobs and they’re going to look for aluminum cans.
“You kind of feel bad for these people. Not everyone is fortunate as other people with jobs.”
According to the ordinance, offenders who receive a citation for removing trash illegally can face a maximum fine of $1,000 and six months in jail.
A more common problem, Kansky said, is illicit dumping in private dumpsters or trash cans without permission, which is prohibited by the same ordinance as dumpster diving.
“I’ve had a lot of business owners say they are tired of people dumping trash in their dumpsters,” he said. “If someone owns a business and they come into work on Monday and their dumpster is full, they have to pay to have it removed.
“The city offers trash collection and the county offers compactor sites. It is just pure laziness.”
Kansky recommends those wishing to prevent people from dumpster diving or illegally dumping trash in their dumpsters or trash cans post a sign nearby that warns that unauthorized use of the receptacle is prohibited by city ordinance and violators will be prosecuted.
Additionally, all dumpsters are required by code to be surrounded with a fence and a gate, which can also discourage unauthorized use.
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