“We’ve had some problems with people climbing into the containers — looking, scavenging and damaging the containers in the process,” said Sandra Kitchen, city attorney, during a council meeting last month.
She added there also are privacy concerns when people scavenge through trash containing credit card statements or other personal documents.
“There’s also a public safety issue with someone climbing in there and having the lid come down and hit them on the head,” she added.
Dumpster diving has become a common practice throughout the United States, based on the belief that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
In recent years, larger Dumpsters in local alleys have been damaged, including lids being ripped off, said City Sanitation Superintendent Darrell Rood. Rood said he doesn’t know if all that damage is due to people going through the containers.
He said residents generally take care of the roll-off containers that they store in a garage or near their home. The problems came with the large containers in alleys.
For years, the City Code has prohibited defacing city trash containers. The new language prohibits anyone from interfering with containers or removing trash from them.
Those who violate the new ordinance can be issued a citation, Kitchen said. The maximum penalty for municipal court fines is $750, but she doesn’t know what fine the municipal court judge will set for the offense.
Mayor Scott Mangold asked about residents retrieving their own trash, in case they accidentally toss an important item.
“I don’t want to get busted for trying to dig out my own garbage,” he said.
“Once it’s in the city container, it belongs to the city,” Councilman Myron Heny responded.
Kitchen added, “We don’t want you climbing into the container, because we’re having breakage from that.”
She said if trash is in a city Dumpster, then residents need to call City Hall and ask for permission to go through it. The ordinance allows city employees to go through the trash or permit others to do so.