'Why isn't this theft?' Suburban bin raiders anger residents

A Sydney resident has captured photos of two people rummaging through her rubbish bins outside her home, sparking a debate about the safety of her private information.

The woman, from Moorebank in Sydney’s southwest, uploaded the images to a local community Facebook group, asking her neighbours if the bin raiders’ actions were considered to be theft.

“They may just be seen as collecting cans but what is to say they aren’t collecting all of our personal information that is on all of the recycled paper we throw out?” she wrote.

Many people agreed that sorting through someone else’s rubbish was “disgusting” and an invasion of privacy.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to go through bins… and yes they do leave a mess,” one woman wrote.

Another neighbour said she had previously told the pair she would report them if they didn’t stop going through her bins.

Two people were photographed rummaging through rubbish bins in Moorebank, south west of Sydney. Source: Facebook/Moorebank Social Network
Two people were photographed rummaging through rubbish bins in Moorebank, south west of Sydney. Source: Facebook/Moorebank Social Network

However, others had solutions to limit the amount of foraging.

“Shred all your personal information before putting it into the recycle bin. Problem solved,” one woman suggested.

“Put all your return and earn eligible containers in a box and put it next to your bin. They’ll know not to go through it and can easily grab them,” a man suggested.

People going through bins may be fined

On the Return and Earn website, bin foraging is discouraged.

“People collecting containers from kerbside bins need to respect the rights of private landowners and remember that all the usual laws apply,” the website reads.

“Tipping bins out onto public land is littering, and on-the-spot-fines can be issued against people breaking the law.”

The NSW Return and Earn scheme has collected almost 1.8 billion bottles and cans since its introduction in December 2017.

Each eligible container is worth 10 cents, and can be refunded in the form of a retail gift voucher, an electronic refund to a PayPal account or a donation to a charity.

The NSW Environment Protection Authority told Yahoo News Australia in a statement it did not condone searching through bins for containers.

It advises residents to contact police if somebody trespasses on private property to search through bins.

“Community views and feedback on bin searching are mixed, with some residents viewing it as a positive action for social good. However, we acknowledge that it has been upsetting to some residents,” the EPA said in the statement.

“Ongoing engagement with councils has indicated that this is not a widespread issue but does happen sporadically and is resolving over time as citizens are becoming accustomed to engaging with the [Return and Earn] scheme.”

The EPA said residents could donate containers to a nearby charity, school or community group or return their containers to a collection point to receive a refund.

Liverpool City Council chief executive Tim Moore told Yahoo News Australia bin raiding was not illegal if bins were on public property, but council did not condone the practice.

“Residents concerned about people foraging in their bins can contact council to be sent stickers discouraging the practice,” he said.

“Council is not aware of a significant increase in complaints.”

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