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Atascadero finalized its ban on dumpster diving

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It’s final: Rummaging and scavenging through trash is now banned in Atascadero.

The City Council finalized the anti-scavenging ordinance with a 5-0 vote on Jan. 13, after initially passing the ordinance in its first reading in December. The ban was a response to residential complaints about people rummaging through their recycling bins looking for cans and bottles to redeem for cash, said Atascadero Police Chief Jerel Haley. Those found violating the ordinance won’t be arrested and hauled off to jail, Haley said; instead, the department will engage in public outreach, including offering information about where people can find homeless services or other sources of aid. If need be, officers will issue citations.

“People need help, and sometimes people get help by going through the trash,” Councilmember Roberta Fonzi said.

Fonzi encouraged other avenues of getting resources to those in need, however, saying that residents who are OK with people rummaging through their recycling for cash-redeemable materials could instead take those recyclables to a center, exchange them for cash, and then donate that money to a homeless support organization.

The council also noted that technically, recyclables in the blue bins are the property of and a primary source of revenue for the company contracted and paid to haul away the waste.

“It’s kind of like a pawn shop, where somebody takes stolen material into a pawn shop and gets money for it,” Councilmember Bob Kelley said.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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