Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The Insecurity of Public Interest: Criminal Law and Dumpster Diving

"Paul May, Jason Chan and William James were arrested on 25 October last year, just before midnight, for climbing over a wall at the back of Iceland in Kentish town and taking some tomatoes, mushrooms, cheese and Mr Kipling cakes that were destined for a landfill. Initially arrested for burglary, the three men were detained in a police cell for 19 hours before being released, the items they took returned to the Iceland store. They were finally charged by the Crown Prosecution Service under what the Guardian has properly described as ‘an obscure section of the 1824 Vagrancy Act, after being discovered in “an enclosed area, namely Iceland, for an unlawful purpose, namely stealing food”.’ (...)

(...)"What can be said about our political community, when the public administration claims that it is in the public interest to deprive anyone who appears not to be acting in conformity with its idea of citizenship of the basic means for their subsistence — from their access to food, to their homes, to their nationality? Above all, it must be in our interest to rethink our conception of the public sphere, if we aim to remain — or, better, to become — a community." The Insecurity of Public Interest: Criminal Law and Dumpster Diving by Henrique Carvalho • 7 February 2014 Critical Legal Thinking

Related articles:

"People may often dumpster dive for useful items such as clothing, furniture, food, and similar items in good working condition.[5]  Some people do this out of necessity due to poverty,[6] while others do so professionally and systematically for large profits.[7]

(...)"A wide variety of things may be disposed while still repairable or in working condition, making salvage of them a source of potentially free items for personal use, or to sell for profit. Irregular, blemished or damaged items that are still otherwise functional are regularly thrown away. Discarded food that might have slight imperfections, near its expiration date, or that is simply being replaced by newer stock is often tossed out despite being still edible.[18] Many retailers are reluctant to sell this stock at reduced prices because of the risks that people will buy it instead of the higher-priced newer stock, that extra handling time is required, and that there are liability risks. In the United Kingdom, cookery books have been written on the cooking and consumption of such foods, which has contributed to the popularity of skipping.[citation needed] Artists often use discarded materials retrieved from trash receptacles to create works of found art or assemblage.[20]

"Students have been known to partake in dumpster diving to obtain high tech items for technical projects, or simply to indulge their curiosity for unusual items.[21]  Dumpster diving can additionally be used in support of academic research. Garbage picking serves as the main tool for garbologists, who study the sociology and archeology of trash in modern life. Private and government investigators may pick through garbage to obtain information for their inquiries. Illegal cigarette consumption may be deduced from discarded packages.

"Dumpster diving can be hazardous, due to potential exposure to biohazardous matter, broken glass, and overall unsanitary conditions that may exist in dumpsters.[6]

"Arguments against garbage picking often focus on the health and cleanliness implications of people rummaging in trash.[citation needed]  This exposes the dumpster divers to potential health risks, and, especially if the dumpster diver does not return the non-usable items to their previous location, may leave trash scattered around. Divers can also be seriously injured or killed by garbage collection vehicles; in January 2012, in La Jolla, Swiss-American gentleman Alfonso de Bourbon was killed by a truck while dumpster diving.[22]  Further, there are also concerns around the legality of taking items that may still technically belong to the person who threw them away (or to the waste management operator), and whether the taking of some items like discarded documents is a violation of privacy. In general a legal concept called abandonment of property covers this question of the subject of ownership of property that is disposed of.

"Discarded billing records may be used for identity theft." Continue reading: Dumpster diving on Wikipedia


"Dumpster diving is legal in the United States except where prohibited by local regulation. According to a 1988 Supreme Court Ruling (California vs. Greenwood), when a person throws something out, that item is now the public domain. Here is some language from that ruling: “It is common knowledge that plastic garbage bags left on or at the side of a public street are readily accessible to animals, children, scavengers, snoops, and other members of the public.”

Good Samaritan Law: No Excuses for Not Donating

"Store managers will claim that food in their dumpster cannot legally be consumed by humans, or that they cannot donate or give it away. This is either ignorance or lies. If you have the patience to educate, you may want to bring up the  Good Samaritan Food Donation Act that has has been the law since the 1990s.

"Some people suggest telling store managers you are collecting food to feed livestock or for a compost pile and if you don’t want to make a political point on the waste this will usually work. Some managers will even tell you when certain items are discarded (ie; produce), and encourage you to come get them. The main thing that food stores are worried about is¬† someone getting sick from what they throw away, and then suing them." Dumpster Diving and the Law -