Legality Of Scrapping Metal

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Collecting Scrap That Has Been Thrown Out

Scrap Metal collection is a great idea; But then again, so are a lot of things. It doesn’t, however, mean any of them are legal. So, what does law have in store for those who are scrapping waste picked from other’s garbage? Could The police one day pop out from around the corner and give you a ticket. Or worse?

For hundreds of years, waste materials have been considered property of the public. This precedent dates back to the oldest of laws in Europe and Native American practices in North America. To quote my neighbor’s retort, “Yeah, so were public executions, that doesn’t mean they should be legal today…What’s your point?”

Well, the difference between this law and any of our other archaic laws is that this one doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights, nor is it inhumane. Now, if you use people’s garbage to do immoral things, those immoral things should and are (usually) already illegal. For example, taking someone’s confidential credit card information or stealing their identity would be completely illegal. The fact that you picked that information from the garbage didn’t make it a crime. Even if it were illegal to dumpster dive, would that stop somebody who is trying to steal that information? Would it stop somebody who is looking for food?

As a scrapper, you aren’t snooping around in someone’s garbage to steal their identity; you are harvesting clearly abandoned scrap metal. There has never been, nor ever will be, anything immoral about picking up scrap metal and keeping it out of landfills.

There is a common misconception that scrapping is keeping money out of the pockets of our government, or raising taxes, or some other crazy lie. I don’t know how that started, I don’t know why it started, but I bet it is because of some tight-ass, paranoia-stricken delusion-oids. If you are one who is afraid of people salvaging your scrap metal, why?

None the less, local laws/ordinances make it a ticket-able offense to take scrap metal from the trash. I don’t know how that helps much of anything. People can simply ask homeowners for permission before they pick things up to scrap them. All the law is doing is drawing attention to the fact that people are scrapping, not stifling it. It’s dumb.

When you take your trash to the curb, you are placing it in the public domain. It is becoming public property only when it is sitting on the government-owned fringe property waiting for the city’s publicly contracted waste management service to pick it up. If your garbage has not been put to the street, if you have a private dumpster that is locked, or if your have set your scrap in a green recycling bin then nobody should be messing with it without permission. If somebody does, then you can call the police.

The precedent of legal trash picking was confirmed by the United States Congress in the famous California v. Greenwood case.

Keeping Your Truck Street Legal
As a scrapper one thing to be careful of is letting your truck “overflow” with garbage. An expensive way to solve this problem is to put on a truck bed cap, or start driving a van. An easy way to solve this problem is to not drive on main roads without first strapping all of your junk down with some simple ratchet straps (pictured on left).





Filing Your Taxes

For more info on filing taxes for scrap metal, please check out there two articles:
For Info on the need for filing 1099s for your customers. Also see more here.


Please Leave A Comment! Happy Scrapping!

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