Not Yours!
Off the Wall, October
19, 2012

There’s an old saying that has existed over the years – “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” When you think of it, that bit of wisdom applies to part of our culture in so much as evidence is shown usually on weekends where people have yard sales, flea markets or garage sales. Materialists feed on these opportunities.

As you know, I love to walk. I do so mostly on the east and north side of Latrobe. I have patterned my journey searching for the hills, some slight, others steep. All in all, I think I have accomplished my goal at least during the summer months.

But that’s not my subject of interest. What I want to do today is concentrate on garbage, instead.

Certain periods throughout Latrobe, we have days of refuge collections. That’s nothing new, for we have had that for a long time. But along with that, it can be seen that residents throw out everything they don’t want anymore, I touched upon that a number of weeks back concerning hotdogs.

What I’m finding as I walk the streets of Latrobe is that come garbage days, in addition to the stickered bags, people will throw out large items as well. I have seen a perfectly fine dresser, TV stand, full stands for VCR, televisions, radios, etc., and the like, standing along the roadside waiting for the refuge company to pick them up to be tossed in a dump somewhere. That disheartens me.

Of course, there were many small items in perfect shape laying on the ground with a sticker on them looking up at me so as to say, “Take me home. I don’t want to be covered in debris.” I can only imagine most everything else has those same “feelings,” too, particularly on Spring Cleanup Days.

Talking about that week, seeing an item here and there is nothing compared to that week. Throughout communities, not only in Latrobe, do we spot certain items we love to have for various reasons – to resell at flea markets, yard sales or even keep for our own use. But here’s the big question that probably had not entered people’s minds particularly those who may be enticed to pick over someone’s garbage. Does one have the right to take another’s possession if it is by the roadside ready for the refuse company to collect?

The answer, believe it or not, is “No.” That may surprise you. It’s not yours.

According to Dave Mith, general manager of Allied Waste, the wanted item still belongs to the property owner until his company picks it up. “If one wants an item that has been set out for us to pick up,” he said, “he must seek the owner’s permission to take it.”

How many times have you seen trucks travel down your street at a slow speed as drivers look over the merchandise sitting along the roadside? Anyone who picks up an item and deposits it in the back of a vehicle is stealing it, breaking the law, plain and simple. I guess it could be said that if one procures an item in such a fashion and tries to sell it at a yard or flea market is selling stolen goods. That may sound far-fetched, but when one steals something and then resells it, that is what the police would call it.

But I can just hear someone saying, “They were just throwing the thing out anyway…” Was permission granted to take the item? If not, it was, consequently, stolen from the property owner, period.

Here’s a two-fold better idea. Want to get rid of things that are in good to great condition? Either take them to St. Vincent dePaul Society on Jefferson Street in Latrobe and deposit the items in at the back entrance. According to a representative, they have to be re-saleable or re-usable. In any case, the items may be picked up by St. Vincent de Paul. For information concerning the latter, call and talk to a representative.

So, here’s a thought to ponder. If you see something sitting at the end of someone’s driveway and think it could be used either by you or another, knock on the door and get permission to take it. If no one answers, either come back another time or let it be. Remember, taking it without permission is stealing and you don’t want to do that. That’s a no-no engraved in stone visible in the Ten Commandments. Home owners, follow this rime – “Make a simple call to St. Vincent de Paul.” If it’s good, you did as you should.”

- Paul J. Volkmann
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