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Have you Ever Wondered: What Prevents People from Placing Useless items on the Street?

As the famous Mackelmore song “Thrift Shop” goes: “One man’s trash is another man’s come up”.  (Or if you’ve never heard of Mackelmore, you’ve probably heard the saying “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”) You might have asked yourself at some point, where does “another man” find the “one man’s” come-up (i.e. trash)?  Well, thrift shops, of course, which I love going to and shopping at since it does great things for the environment and the community.  The other place where “another man” may find things is on the side of the road.  You know what I’m talking about.  The pile of items on the planting strip which says “Free” on it.  This practice has become so common you don’t even need the “Free” sign anymore, at least in my neighborhood.

If you are like me, when you see these things, you sometimes pull your car over to a safe spot, get out of the vehicle (looking both ways of course before opening your door so you don’t hit another car or bicyclists) and look at the items to see if there is anything you want.  You’d be amazed at how many cool things I’ve found for my daughters by doing this (two push cars, a kitchen set, a toy broom for their clubhouse, etc.).  Sometimes, however, when you take a close look you see that these items aren’t even useable, but are essentially just trash.  And you may wonder then “What prevents people from placing useless items on the street which are clearly not another person’s “come up?” 

The answer to this question first depends on which city you live in.   Each city has different ordinances that it passes and enforces to help preserve the area as intended by its residents.   What may be good for one city, might not be applicable to another because of different density, etc. 

Since Seattle is the most populated city in the state, let’s look at what they require.  In the City of Seattle, you are not allowed to store junk:  1) outdoors on your property, 2) on an adjacent right-of-way, such as an alley or planting strip, or 3) on a sidewalk. Junk can be used materials, scrap metal or car parts, construction debris, furniture, trash, or inoperable vehicles.  If you see this happening, you can contact the City of Seattle.  It will then send out an inspector to the property to determine if what you are looking at qualifies as junk.   If it does, a fine will be issued between $150 to $500, and ultimately the junk can be hauled away by the City at the wrongdoer’s expense.  So the person who will ultimately make the decision on whether the item is “junk” or not, would be the City inspector.  (I bet that person has some cool stories of things he or she has seen).  If you’d rather not get the City involved, you can always just take the item to your local Goodwill.  The employees there probably know the difference between junk and what qualifies as another man’s come up or junk. 

Here is a link to the Goodwill locator to find a store or donation center:  http://seattlegoodwill.org/locator.  

And if you want to read more about Seattle City Ordinances (who doesn’t?)  you can do so by clicking on this link:  http://www.seattle.gov/dpd/codesrules/commonquestions/junkstorage/default.htm


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