Who owns the bottles and cans in your bin?

Bin business: When the recycling bin goes out to kerb for collection, those bottles and cans inside are legally owned by someone - so technically, they are not free for the taking. Picture: Jonathan Carroll
Bin business: When the recycling bin goes out to kerb for collection, those bottles and cans inside are legally owned by someone - so technically, they are not free for the taking. Picture: Jonathan Carroll

Despite what some people may think, bottles and cans in kerbside recycling bins are not free for the taking.

In the wake of the popularity of the Return and Earn scheme, some claim that no one actually owns the contents of the bins once they were placed at the kerb.

This is not the case.

When the bins are within a property boundary, they are owned by the people living there.

According to the Local Government Act when they’re left at the kerbside for collection the contents of the bin become the property of the council.

Whether that means removing bottles and cans from the bins is illegal is not clear.

A question to the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) as to whether bin raiders were breaking the law was left unanswered.

A Wollongong City Council spokesman said some residents had voiced their concerns about the practice.

“Council has received enquiries about people sorting through recyclable waste on the kerbside,” the spokesman said.

“Residents should contact the EPA to report incidents.”

The spokesman said council’s customer service team should be contacted if litter was left on the street as a result of people digging through kerbside bins.

The spokesman said the council would work with the EPA to address the issue of recycling bin raiders.