I like junk. Not like in a reality show, hoarder fashion, but more like a weird appreciation for items that have been cast off by their owners. On trips to the Billings landfill or the Laurel Container Site, I'm always scanning the piles of old bicycles, barbeques, and other odds-ends. "I can't believe someone is throwing that away!" I think to myself, resisting the urge to break the law and take some random piece of junk home. Taking stuff from the dump is illegal (for reasons I don't completely understand) plus, I'm confident my spouse doesn't want me bringing another person's refuse home.

My appreciation for junk valuable stuff might come from my family's rural background, where many farmers and country folk seemed to keep everything. There aren't many silver spoons in my family tree. No doubt part of my grandparents' reluctance to throw stuff away stems from surviving the Great Depression. A row of junk vehicles parked on the "north forty" along with old equipment and God-knows-what-else still seems fairly common in many rural areas. Because, well... you might just need it someday.

Michael Foth - Townsquare Media
Michael Foth - Townsquare Media

Running around Billings today, I spotted a dumpster in the alley. I was really just looking for a photo to use in this story, but I simply couldn't resist the urge to take a peek into the fully loaded garbage bin. And wouldn't you know it...a perfectly fine-looking pair of snowboard boots, sitting right on top! "Who would throw these away", I wondered.

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Dumpster Diving is illegal in Billings.

I'd heard variations on the legality of digging through dumpsters in Billings. An email to Nicole Cromwell, Billings Code Enforcement Supervisor, confirmed that it is not allowed. Cromwell said the City of Billings Code Section 21-212 prohibits anyone from disturbing waste placed in refuse containers – aka “dumpster diving.” The code reads,

Sec. 21-212. - Disturbing refuse receptacles.

No person shall remove, handle, pick or otherwise disturb the refuse receptacles or the contents thereof which have been properly placed for collection. This section shall not apply to the owner, occupant, lessee of residence, dwelling or other building so placing the refuse and receptacle or to others whose legal duty it is to handle the receptacles or contents, or to those who have been issued a permit for such purpose. This section shall not restrict the authority of law enforcement officials to conduct a search of refuse receptacles.

(Code 1967, § 7.24.260; Ord. No. 10-5514, § 6, 6-14-10)

As crime continues to tick upward in Montana, people seem fairly sensitive to strangers poking around in their alleyways, even if the person is just looking for free stuff in the trash. That's understandable. I guess if you have something that you think someone might want, maybe put a "free" sign on it before the trash man comes?

Photos: 2021 Crooked Creek Fire in Pryor Mountains, Montana

"Wildland fire on public lands managed by the Custer Gallatin National Forest, 25 miles east of Bridger, Mont., in the Pryor Mountains near the southern border of the Crow Indian Reservation." (Photos by Colby K. Neal/BLM) - Bureau of Land Management Montana and Dakotas

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