Seeing people scavenging junk in Sydney is not an unusual sight. Who wouldn’t like to dive in for the chance to find usable and even valuable items for free? During these times of uncertainties, economic struggles, and challenges brought about by the global pandemic, some Sydney residents have sorted to junk scavenging that has resulted in mixed opinions towards such activity.

A bulk collection is scheduled for every local council in Sydney on a twice a year basis. This is the season in which piles and piles of rubbish are laid on the curbside to be collected by local council collectors or private rubbish collection companies. Pianos, large furniture, pool tables, white goods, and the usual discardable are placed outside of homes and properties—all items deemed to be rubbish items.

Does this activity bring opportunities or liabilities to the residents of Sydney? Well, it depends on who you’re talking to and where you live. Opinions on this topic are extremely polarising. Some may be happy and some may abhor this type of action.

Let’s discuss the different benefits and negative impacts rubbish scavenging brings from different points of view.

The Good About Junk Scavenging

Ones’ Trash Can Be Someone Else’s Treasure

Not all men are created equal or have similar needs. Items that you consider rubbish may be still of use to someone. One can find furniture, working appliances, and other items that can be reused, recycled, and repurposed. 

Moreover, NSW’s Recycling Program, Return and Earn, has prompted scavengers from all walks of life to hop into junk scavenging for opportunities of finding items that can be converted to cash.   

Junk Scavenging Can Save a Lot in Costs and Expenses

Bulk rubbish collection can be very expensive for both council pickups and private service providers. The preparations for every scheduled pickup costs hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. The scavengers actually are doing a favour to both the government and residents. 

As long as scavengers keep the area neat and tidy, junk scavenging can be a welcome affair to both residents and local councils.

Scavengers Will Bring Recyclable Items to the Drop off Stations for You

Scavengers who are hunting for recyclable goods are actually doing something that will benefit you. They’ll come and take the items to recycling centres free of charge. Of course, whatever cash they get from bartering the items will go straight to their pockets.

Junk Scavenging Reduces the Volume of Items Brought to Landfills

The items found in curbside rubbish for pickup are either brought to recycling facilities or to landfills. Those that are brought to landfills pose a threat to the environment. Of the 5,500 tonnes of rubbish produced in Sydney daily, about 2,000 tonnes of it is brought to landfills. 

Landfills are an option to our waste management program but it also comes with a cost. Plants, animals and people living near landfills areas are in danger of getting exposed to toxic chemicals and fumes out of these landfills. In addition, the landfills are getting filled up fast.

Having junk scavengers take some of your curbside rubbish enables them to reuse, recycle, or upcycle the items that have no use to you anymore. You perform an act of charity while helping in the preservation of our environment. Not a bad idea, huh?

The Bad About Junk Scavenging

There’s a Thin Line Between Scavenging and Stealing

Scavenging over somebody else’s pile of rubbish can be a cause of problems. These are items that have owners and can lead to some trouble if you dive in without asking permission. Yes, the pile of items are considered discards and the owner probably wants to get rid of them. But the previous statement is not 100% true.

There are cases in which the owner just wants the junk placed by the curbside be picked up for recycling and donation to charities. The pile was never intended to be a free-for-all, get-all-you can affair. There were also situations in which scavengers didn’t just get the items in the pile but also the wheelbarrow used in transporting the items.

It is best to talk to the owner first and ask for permission before taking any item from the lot.

Some Local Councils Prohibit Junk Scavenging

While some discourage rubbish scavenging, there are local councils that prohibit bin or curbside scavenging. Some councils actually have fines ranging from $100-$700 for people caught picking up items from bins and collection piles. However, if the piles of items are on the nature strip, it’s fair game.

Make sure you know the laws and regulations that are imposed by your local council before planning any scavenging or if you’re an owner who has piles of rubbish for collection.

Scavenging & Bringing Items to Your home Poses Some Health Risks

There’s no certainty on the safety and cleanliness of the items you get from scavenging. Remember that these items have been in the owners’ possession for years and you don’t know about the circumstances in which they were used and maintained.

There were reports of medical items like used syringes and needles present in piles of rubbish. Some bulk items like mattresses and couches were discovered to have lice, fungi colonies, and other pests living in them. You have to be careful when scavenging for items like these. The health risks you take are not worth the value of the items you bring into your home.

The Aftermath of Scavenging Can Be Messy

The biggest complaint scavenging brings to local councils and property owners is the mess that is left after scavengers leave the area. Items are left on the street and outside of the collection area. Reports of traffic obstruction, trespassing, and littering were among the common charges against junk scavengers.

Final Thoughts

The practice of scavenging will always be present in Sydney. The most important thing to remember is the etiquette and rules to follow whether you’re a scavenger or an owner who wants to get rid of items that have no use to you.

If you’re a scavenger, always ask permission from the owner first before attempting to touch the items that are not yours—regardless if they’re in the bin or placed on the nature strip. Place the items back in place if you decide not to take them with you. Keep the place neat and tidy before you leave.

For the property owners, expect scavenging activities if they are legal in your area. If you’re not comfortable having your items touched by others, place your bin or collection inside your property. Call your local council or a rubbish removal company for personalised pickups if you want to avoid the scavenging season.

The scavenging season is similar to Christmas for scavengers. Who wouldn’t want to have items that are still usable and free to take?

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