How to prevent people from throwing away their trash in a can not theirs?
December 23, 2009 9:09 PM   Subscribe

What to do about people putting their trash in trash cans which are not theirs?

A friend of mine has a problem: she lives in a duplex, and some people, who are probably the people who live in the neighboring duplex, keep putting their trash in her garbage can, filling it up entirely. Although she has not seen them doing so, because their garage is right next to hers (she puts her garbage can outside next to the garage), she suspects they are the culprits. The garages are not visible from the street, making it unlikely that an outside person is doing it, and their garbage can is overflowing with trash, although they for some reason do not take it out to the curb.

She complained to the landlord, but the landlord doesn't seem to want to do anything since she doesn't have concrete proof it's them doing it. She put her garbage can inside of the garage, but she would rather not do that.

Any suggestions on how she can discourage people from leaving their trash inside of her garbage can?
posted by Charmian to Home & Garden (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Put a lock on the trash can so only she has access to it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:18 PM on December 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Chain and a lock. That's it.
posted by sanka at 9:21 PM on December 23, 2009

I think the list of possible solutions is rather short:

1. Move the can inside, or to some location that's less convenient for the neighbors
2. Get a bigger trash can
3. Confront the neighbors and ask if they're doing it, then ask them not to, or work out some sort of compromise (two cans, alternate taking them to the curb)
4. Any number of silly passive-aggressive things, like putting a lock on the can, or nasty notes.

If you leave a trash can outside in a public or shared/common area, people are going to put trash in it. Given the alternatives (they might instead just leave it in piles, or litter), this is generally a Good Thing. But it essentially means that if you don't want people putting trash in your can, you need to put it out of sight or at least make it less convenient than the next-closest receptacle.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:25 PM on December 23, 2009

Don't put the garbage out until she's already filled it. That's it.
posted by davejay at 9:32 PM on December 23, 2009

The problem is that they are completely filling it, so that she cannot put her own trash in there. For example, the trash is collected every Monday, and the last time it was completely filled by Wednesday.
posted by Charmian at 9:34 PM on December 23, 2009

Putting a lock on it is not passive aggressive. She has the right to use her own garbage can.

Passive aggressive would be putting her garbage in their garbage can.

I think a lock is a good idea.
posted by kathrineg at 9:37 PM on December 23, 2009 [7 favorites]

Passive aggressive would be pulling their garbage out of your can and stacking it around theirs/in front of their garage door.

Put the can in your garage and be done with it.
posted by sbutler at 9:41 PM on December 23, 2009

If they think a lock is too inconvenient or whatever, put a brick or something heavy on top. If the neighbors are loading her trash out of laziness, now it's suddenly less convenient. Thus, they take the path of least resistance and use their own garbage, or some other unlucky person's trash. It also might send a passive agressive message, but at this point, they deserve at least that. They're impeding the tenant's ability to use the trash service that she's paying for. It's pretty much theft of service.

Remember to take the brick off before pickup, or else you'll need a new one next week.
posted by mccarty.tim at 10:04 PM on December 23, 2009

Has your friend ever spoken to the neighbors, or does she typically avoid them?

I think she could approach the neighbors, asking them if they've seen any suspicious activity. Do not accuse the neighbors of this, instead pretend that she's just being a concerned tenant. She's noticed that someone has been leaving trash in her garbage can, and it looks like they've done the same to the neighbor's overflowing can (if it's that obvious). Maybe remark how she has to set up surveillance so that the landlord can take appropriate action.

This might put the neighbors "on alert" that their shenanigans haven't gone unnoticed, if it is truly them that are the culprits. At the very least, if she is a stranger to them, it might help establish a rapport between your friend and her neighbors such that they feel less inclined to inconvenience her.
posted by CancerMan at 10:20 PM on December 23, 2009

Neighbors don't take their trash can to the curb because they can put in your friends and it is miraculously gone every week without them having to wheel anything to/from the curb.

Garaging is the only solution. This may have the unintended consequence of them just dumping their trash on the ground next to their trash cans because they're still going to be lazy. Once trash is on the ground, you'll have a lot of little critters interested in it.
posted by ijoyner at 10:30 PM on December 23, 2009

ijoyner: "This may have the unintended consequence of them just dumping their trash on the ground next to their trash cans because they're still going to be lazy. Once trash is on the ground, you'll have a lot of little critters interested in it."

There'd be little critters interested in it but I suspect that the landlord would also be a critter that would become interested in it.

She may not want to put it into the garage because she wants the space, or needs it. Alternately, it might bother her that she can't do as she pleases because some dope is, well, a dope.

I'm with the first couple of posts, find a way to fashion a lock and chain on it and be done, no more problem for her.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:05 AM on December 24, 2009

It's as you say, Dancestoblue, the complex fines people for leaving trash bags outside of the trash cans. The trash started to appear in her trash can after the neighbors filled theirs up.

Right now she is putting it in the garage, but yes, she does want to avoid doing that because this is not an optimal solution for various reasons. I should have been clearer about this in the question, sorry.
posted by Charmian at 3:54 AM on December 24, 2009

Inside the garage, that's what most of the world does for a million reasons. Continuing to leave it outside is just going to continue the problem.
posted by HuronBob at 3:58 AM on December 24, 2009

She could call the garbage collection people and ask their advice.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:41 AM on December 24, 2009

"Hi neighbor, how are you doing? Good! I have a small favor to ask - I've noticed that my trash can sometimes gets filled up with other peoples' trash to the point where I can't even fit my own trash in it. I'm not sure if you've been filling it, and it's really no big deal if so, but nevertheless I'd appreciate it if you could find somewhere else to put your trash. Thanks, good to see you too!"

Regardless of how they answer to your face, odds are your problem will be resolved.
posted by violinflu at 5:44 AM on December 24, 2009

Since she is putting it in the garage at this point, this will probably give a clear sign that it is her neighbors using her trashcan. Either the neighbors will take their can down to the curb for pickup this week, or there will eventually be bags of garbage around it.

Assuming they start bringing their garbage to the curb eventually, your friend can then reintroduce her garbage can to the outside. Either her neighbors will recognize that using her garbage can is no longer a solution and keep up with their own trash, or they won't and your friend will find her trashcan filled after a week or two.

If the latter there are really only a few rational solutions. She should start by telling them to not use her trashcan. If that doesn't work, then it is either lock it, put it back in the garage, or move it somewhere else (even around a corner might be enough of an increased effort to discourage the dumping).

Sure there are plenty of other ways to go - dumping their trash in front of their garage, going through their trash and committing identity theft, rigging your trashcan so something happens when they open it, etc. but all of these lead to escalation and since they will presumably be neighbors for a while that would be worse for your friend in the long run.
posted by mikepop at 5:48 AM on December 24, 2009

She doesn't need to put it in the garage (or lock it) forever, just long enough for her neighbours to get into a new habit of using their own garbage can. Once they do, they are unlikely to revert to using hers. I assume there is nowhere outside on the other side of her place (not on the side the neighbours live) to put the garbage. A quick google suggests that to lock a garbage can, you need to cut your own holes in it.

What did they do before they started to use your friend's garbage?

She can try CancerMan's suggestion, but I'd recommend trying it next Monday, after she has considerately put their can out to the curb for them. (She should not need to do this more than once.)
posted by jeather at 5:48 AM on December 24, 2009

I would be proactive about it, say have her rustle through their trash and find something that directly points to them, such as a bill or envelope with their name. Have her bring the evidence over to their house and say that she has noticed that they are using her trash can instead of their own. She should say that perhaps they misunderstood the proper use of their containers and please make corrections. They cannot dispute that it is theirs, your friend will have concrete proof to show to her landlord, and the offenders are put on notice without any undue confrontation.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 5:54 AM on December 24, 2009 [2 favorites]

i'd follow violinflu's advice. don't accuse them, just ask if they know who's doing it. i'd also suggest that the neighbors get a second can, if they're generating that much. if she's polite and friendly, there shouldn't be any problems.

overall, it's important to realize that the neighbors don't think they're doing anything wrong-they probably think it's better to fill up the cans then leave trash lying about. if the neigbors deny doing it, or keep doing it after she talks to them, then i guess she's going to have to keep her trash in the garage.
posted by lester's sock puppet at 6:05 AM on December 24, 2009

It's possible that the neighbors are not aware that both trashcans are not for the common use of both halves of the duplex (if I am understanding the living arrangements correctly.) Maybe if she used a permanent marker to write her unit number on the lid, it might clue them in without a confrontation. Would be an easy first step to try before doing anything more inconvenient or confrontational.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 7:09 AM on December 24, 2009

I have the same problem in our alley where people in the neighboring duplex do this. It isn't annoying until we run out of space in our trash container because someone else has filled ours. I have actually opened a garbage bag and found a bill with their name on it so I actually knew who the offender was.

Keeping the can in the garage for a week or two seems to do the trick and they find some other way to dispose of it. A lock on the container seems overkill. Usually if you make it more difficult like putting a bungee cord holding the lid down or facing the container so that to open it you have to move it around or even move it further away, it will make it less appealing.
posted by JJ86 at 8:39 AM on December 24, 2009

Spring loaded badgers should put and to the problem real quick.. Failing that, talk to the neighbor about it, or put the can in the garage..
posted by SteveG at 10:33 AM on December 24, 2009

Followup: she has been keeping the can in the garage, but when she took out the can for garbage pickup, after the trash had been collected, they put their trash in the can! She works during the day and can't be there to watch the can and snatch it after the trash has been collected.
posted by Charmian at 2:58 PM on December 28, 2009

Now that's going beyond lazy and opportunistic to obnoxious. I'd dump their garbage in front of their can, put my can in my garage, and let them get fined.
posted by mikepop at 6:30 PM on December 28, 2009

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