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Is collecting cans from curbside bins legal in Oregon?

The short answer: Yes, if you ask permission

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Your trash is private property, depending on the container it’s in. That’s according to an Oregon Supreme Court decision last May. 

A Bend resident told NewsChannel 21 she was collecting cans -- or "canning," as she called it -- in a neighborhood Monday morning when a resident came out of his house and pointed a flashlight at her. She said she was frustrated about being blinded by bright lights in her face while she was driving on a slick road. 

The woman told NewsChannel 21 she posted about the incident on the NextDoor app, and she received mixed reactions about whether or not collecting cans from other people’s containers is legal -- or should be.

In May, the state Supreme Court said if you leave your garbage and recycling on the curb, in a non-transparent container with the lid closed, you're the only one who can legally sift through it, without your permission. 

According to Oregon law, people can sift through open containers only on public property. All containers on private property are off-limits for collecting cans.

Timm Schimke, the director of Deschutes County's Department of Solid Waste, said the collection company receives a fee from the homeowner for their services. 

Schimke said revenue from the sale of recyclable materials by the collection company helps them keep their service costs down.

And so, he said a third-party removing contents from a homeowner’s trash and recycling containers could result in higher fees for the homeowner, because that revenue is lost to the collection company.

Lt. Juli McConkey, with the Bend Police Department, said the best way to avoid any legal trouble when wanting to collect cans from private properties is to ask the homeowner for permission before going through their garbage or recycling bins.

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Rhea Panela

Rhea Panela is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Rhea here.

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