War on Waste: Is it legal to take the junk people leave on the kerb for council clean-up?


Updated

September 14, 2018 10:19:02

Your neighbour has just put an old leather lounge out on the kerb for council clean-up.

It would go perfectly in your living room, and you’ve seen people pick up furniture from the street before, but are you legally allowed to take it?

Turns out it depends on where you live.

What are the rules around taking items left on the kerb?

The laws around salvaging — or “saving” items that would otherwise be destined for landfill — are decided by your local council.

Some councils may have by-laws in place to prevent the activity. But the advice in the majority of capital cities is that any junk left on the kerb for council collection is fair game.

In fact, salvaging is encouraged in Brisbane.

“Residents are welcome to recycle kerbside collection goods, however, they should ensure that leftover items are stacked tidily and not creating any obstructions to the footpath or roadway,” a council spokesman said.

Tap here or scroll down to see the advice from your capital city.

So what should I do if I spot something I like?

If you spy something on the kerb that you could use, there’s a certain etiquette you should follow.

Some councils advise that you should try to seek permission from the homeowner first.

“If there is something in a pile that people would like to reuse, as a courtesy they should try to contact the person who put it there to ask if it is OK to take,” a spokeswoman from the City of Darwin said.

But the most important thing is to be respectful and be careful not to break anything.

Many councils require residents to sort their items into separate piles — such as furniture, whitegoods and mattresses — as this speeds up the collection process and maximises the chance of items being recycled.

So if you pick something up but decide against taking it home, make sure you put it back exactly where you found it.

You should also take care when handling breakable items, such as windows or mirrors.

Many councils won’t collect loose materials, and broken shards of glass could injure both you and others.

Are there any items I should avoid?

Certain second-hand items could potentially be more trouble than they’re worth.

Used mattresses and bedding, for example, could be hiding nasties such as head lice, pubic lice, bed bugs and fungi.

Furniture made from chipboard or MDF (medium-density fibreboard) is also much harder to renovate than anything made from solid wood.

That’s because MDF and chipboard are cheap wood materials made from leftover timber fibres that have been pressed and glued together.

“These products that are not solid timber are very hard to reuse, because if you try to disassemble them, you will always, always break them,” said Guido Verbist, the general manager of The Bower centre in Sydney.

The Bower is a reuse and repair centre that collects and restores second-hand goods for resale, but it doesn’t accept items made from particle board because they don’t travel well and can warp when they come into contact with water.

Hot tip: Mr Verbist says you can usually tell whether a piece of furniture is made from MDF or chipboard by checking if it has a thin layer of plastic-looking material on it, like a laminated veneer.

What about if I want to put items on the kerb?

If you want to get rid of some old furniture in your home, you should consider all your options first.

The majority of items collected during council clean-ups go straight to landfill, and Brad Mashman, a member of the Waste Management Association of Australia and founder of Australia’s first tip shop, said there were “far better” options avaliable.

“Hard waste collection encourages people to dispose. It says if you don’t want it, put it on the kerb. Just chuck it out on your footpath and walk away,” he said.

“I don’t discourage people from salvaging from hard waste collections, but there are far better opportunities in place to recover the materials.”

How much gets recycled?

The City of Darwin recycled 36 per cent of the items collected during its clean-up in 2016. The previous year, it recycled 22 per cent.

The City of Sydney also warns on its website that many items don’t get recycled, as they’re in too poor condition to salvage.

That was one of the reasons why the Sunshine Coast Council axed its kerbside collection service in 2010.

“The kerbside clean-up wastes an awful lot of recyclable items, as once they are put out on the nature strip, it only needs to rain for them to become useless,” the statement said.

So what are the alternatives?

If you have items in your home that you want to get rid of, consider whether someone else could use it first.

You could offer your items to friends and family, donate them to a local charity, or take them to your local tip shop.

“A drop-off point ensures that the material is not destroyed and can be recovered appropriately,” Mr Mashman said.

You could also try selling your items on sites such as Gumtree and Ebay, or hold a garage sale.

Ultimately, Mr Verbist’s advice is: “If you think it would be good enough for yourself to keep on using it, then there’s probably a place for somebody else to use it.”

See the advice from your capital city:

Brisbane:

“Residents are welcome to recycle kerbside collection goods, however, they should ensure that leftover items are stacked tidily and not creating any obstructions to the footpath or roadway.”

Sydney:

“Our legal advice is that anyone who picks up items left outside for bulky waste pick up is doing so at their own risk.”

Darwin:

“Technically the rubbish belongs to the person who put it there until it is removed by Council. If there is something in a pile that people would like to reuse, as a courtesy, they should try to contact the person who put it there to ask if it is OK to take.”

Perth:

“There is no by-law preventing people from collecting goods relinquished by owners as part of a kerbside collection.”

Adelaide:

“It is not illegal for someone to salvage any hard waste that has been placed on a kerb. [But] a person must not remove, disburse or interfere with any domestic, recyclable, green organics or hard waste contained within a container (including bottles, newspapers, cans, containers or packaging).”

Melbourne:

“The City of Melbourne does not have a specific local law on the practice of searching through hard waste. If a hard waste collection is booked and the items are placed out but a third party collects the waste before City of Melbourne contractors, it is not an offence.”

Canberra:

The ACT Government currently only offers a kerbside collection service for seniors and concession card holders. As such, it is illegal to put items out on the nature strip or in the verge even if they are reusable.

“While there are no specific laws in the ACT that make it illegal for people to take items left on nature strips or on the side of the road, we do discourage the public from taking items as it encourages illegal dumping. In addition, the public should be aware that they may be taking items that do belong to another person and should check with the residence prior to taking any items.”

Hobart:

The City of Hobart does not offer a kerbside collection service. It encourages residents to use the service offered by The Resource Work Cooperative instead.

Topics:

recycling-and-waste-management,

environment,

craft,

human-interest,

australia

First posted

September 14, 2018 04:31:02



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