December 30, 2002 8:36 AM   Subscribe

Rubbish Portland's top brass said it was OK to swipe your garbage--so this weekly newspaper grabbed theirs. Informative and adventurous story results.
posted by sparky (22 comments total)
SPY did this to hilarious results in the '80s. Stole a bunch of celeb garbage and didn't give the celebs' names, but made it clear from revealing details who was who. I miss SPY.
posted by GaelFC at 8:49 AM on December 30, 2002

Oh the hypocrisy!

They go from: "She placed her garbage can out in the open, open to public view, in the public right of way...There were no signs on the garbage, 'Do not open. Do not trespass.' There was every indication...she had relinquished her privacy, possessory interest."

To: "...bring the trash--and bring the name of your attorney"

Ha ha!!
posted by eas98 at 8:56 AM on December 30, 2002

A fellow by the name of A.J. Weberman is the alleged pioneer of this method of biographical research, dubbed "garbology". He is best known for going through Bob Dylan's trash in 1970. This and other celebrity trash info here.
posted by beagle at 9:01 AM on December 30, 2002

Here's a Google cache of a detailed story about Weberman and Dylan.

And don't forget the respectable and scholarly Garbage Project. (So how much landfill space is taken up by disposable diapers? By fast food containers? Newspapers? Do biodegradable items really biodegrade in a typical landfill? Answers here).
posted by maudlin at 9:27 AM on December 30, 2002

I miss Spy too. Did anyone ever figure out and list the themes of the Spy Lists? You'd think it would be on-line somewhere...
posted by nicwolff at 9:32 AM on December 30, 2002

While the hypocrisy of the officials in question is laughable, I believe they are correct as far as legal issues are concerned. I had thought that it was the generally accepted rule that once your trash hits the sidewalk, it's no longer protected by privacy rules. Which would indeed make the judge in this question something of a maverick. Can anyone verify one way or the other?
posted by nickmark at 9:38 AM on December 30, 2002

That's a great article, maudlin. I love the scene where Dylan jumps off his bike in the East Village and beats the shit out of Weberman. THAT'S the way to handle these affairs, people. The judicial system will just slow you down.
posted by luser at 10:08 AM on December 30, 2002

Great article.
posted by Espoo2 at 10:31 AM on December 30, 2002

Mike Schrunk seems to be the only one who comes out of this article smelling like a rose. He might have been nervous about what they found, but he had the strength to stand by his convictions. More on Schrunk, FYI:

Schrunk - Rogue or Protector of public morals?
Schrunk: Animal Advocate
Schrunk: Reform minded DA in regards to the mentally ill and the criminal justice system.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:31 AM on December 30, 2002

In Canada Dumpster Diving and "stealing" garbage is perfectly legal. Garbage becomes "public property" or something like that. This happened because some criminal threw his gun in a trashcan and then in court argued that the police did not have the right to search that can without permission from the owner. The judge said garbage is garbage it's material you don't want and you're giving it away, anyone may search or take it. Just don't trespass or violate any other laws while doing it.
posted by abez at 11:03 AM on December 30, 2002

Since Metafilter (Remixed) is down, I'll just say it here:

[This Is Good]
posted by Ufez Jones at 11:10 AM on December 30, 2002

To be honest, I enjoyed this article a great deal until it started to try and link this particular invasion of civil rights to actions by the White House. I think it's important to make the distinction that _all_ branches and types of government, not just GWB's cabinet, are interested in restricting our civil rights in some way. Police advocacy groups have for years been trying to limit the fourth amendment, and this is clearly a related action, independent of a secret cabal of "conservatives" trying to throw pot smokers and women who have abortions into detention camps or similar such accusations. The histrionic invocation of McCarthyism is particularly silly, as this particular violation clearly results from the War on Drugs, not the War on Terror.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 11:55 AM on December 30, 2002

I'm with Pseudoephedrine (better watch that name, you know you could be making illegal drugs with it!!), I was absolutely hooked til the last section of the article. Still, fascinating read and quite illuminating about how some officials believe they are not equal under the law.

I had thought that it was the generally accepted rule that once your trash hits the sidewalk, it's no longer protected by privacy rules.

So what if my garbage collection service actually comes onto my property, not the sidewalk, to pick up the trash? This is considered a customer service by the company that services my hometown. Do the cops have to wait til the guys hit the street before yanking the cans out of their hands??
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:09 PM on December 30, 2002

...yanking the cans out of their hands sans warrant or any other evidence of due process, I should say.
posted by WolfDaddy at 12:11 PM on December 30, 2002

Yep, an entertaining read, so much so that it would be almost petty to suggest that those crusading alt-journalists at the Willamette Week actually do some research on the matter to see if maybe, just maybe, the Supreme Court had already ruled that going through trash is legal, rather than making it seem like this was something cooked up by a bunch of Yahoo local officials.

So those of you of want to keep chuckling about the chowderheads in the Northwest might not want to read the decision in California v. Greenwood.
posted by agaffin at 12:23 PM on December 30, 2002

Thanks, agaffin, that's what I thought. But you have to admit, it makes the Portland officials look even worse to be responding to the Willy Week folks with such vehemence. If going through my trash is legal, so is going through theirs...
posted by nickmark at 1:20 PM on December 30, 2002

I wonder how many years you would get in a federal penitentiary if you were caught going through the trash of say, John Poindexter?

"Oh, sure, we admit it is a double standard. But you're still going to prison."
posted by kablam at 2:48 PM on December 30, 2002

Hmmm... You see, this is why I spent $10 and got myself a shredder. ;-)

Well, actually, it was this.

As far as people knowing what I eat, well, I'd rather just let you know in person: Chocolate (not usually, but it is x-mas), candy sours, stir-fry, burgers, chips, beef jerky, at least a case of pepsi weekly, chicken nuggets, french fries, and, of course, Kraft Dinner.

Yay. I feel so violated.
posted by shepd at 3:02 PM on December 30, 2002

agaffin: So those of you of want to keep chuckling about the chowderheads in the Northwest might not want to read the decision in California v. Greenwood.

This case has little to do with Greenwood, because it involves the question of whether this violates the Oregon State Constitution. States can, and often do, provide greater protections than the U.S. Constitution does (as Oregon's does) for certain rights and liberties, and that's why the case is still up in the air in Oregon. Whatever the Oregon courts decide won't affect the U.S. Supremes' decision in Greenwood elsewhere.
posted by wdpeck at 3:16 PM on December 30, 2002

Even if it is legal, should it be? In these days of identity theft, perhaps it's time for greater legal protection. How hard is it to say that your trash is your property until taken by an authorized third party?

Tangential questions: So, is trashcan theft legal? And since your trash is public property once it's on the curb, does the city clean up if a dog spreads it all over the sidewalk?

Finally: I'm buying a shredder.
posted by frykitty at 3:24 PM on December 30, 2002

This reminds me of an assignment way back when in Junior College: in an anthropology class, we were tasked with a garbology 'dig' in which we were to 'steal' a bag of trash from someone we did not know, catalogue the contents, and speculate on what the producing household might be like. It was supposed to be akin to an archaeological investigation in which researchers reconstruct a civilization based on its trash.

Of course, as a procrastinator, I didn't manage to grab a neighbor's castoffs before the deadline, so I reverse-engineered the project. I manufactured a 'family' and listed the trash items you might expect to find in their rubbish. The high mark I received for my deception may be an indication of the state of our Community College system in California...
posted by runthegamut at 4:35 PM on December 30, 2002

One reason I love my woodstove.
posted by Mack Twain at 5:29 PM on December 30, 2002

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