Ask LH: How Can I Catch The Person Dumping Rubbish In My Driveway?

Dear Lifehacker, My parents live on a rural property and for reasons unknown have become the target of a fast food-eating litterbug. Frequently (at least a couple of times a week) my parents will leave the property to discover fast food waste strewn across their front driveway (on the public land between our gate and the road). Whilst they are quite complacent about the problem (they just clean it up and go about their business) I am getting increasingly frustrated. What can we do to stop this person from making a mess of our drive way? Thanks, Litter Free

Littering picture from Shutterstock

Dear LF,

Rather than a vindictive litterbug, it seems more likely that the person is grabbing food in town and finishes eating it at roughly the same time -- which happens to be outside your parent's house. However, this doesn't make their behavior any less objectionable or illegal.

The obvious solution is to rig up a security camera or battery-powered webcam so you can document the crime in action. If the offender throws their litter from a vehicle, they'll be easy enough for the police to identify: just ensure the camera is correctly positioned and has sufficient resolution to pick up the license plate number.

If they toss their rubbish while walking it could be trickier to track them down, but at least you'll know what they look like. Depending on your bravery levels -- and the size of the culprit -- you could then set up a motion-sensing alert with your phone and confront them in person the next time you get pinged. (Unless you're Chuck Norris we don't recommend this, however.)

There are a few security camera rules you need to be mindful of too. These vary slightly from state to state -- you can get an overview of each state's privacy laws at the OAIC website. You can also learn more about the dos-and-dont's of setting up your own surveillance system here.

If our readers have any better ideas, let LF know in the comments section below.

Cheers Lifehacker

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    I live 500m+ away from a 24hr mcdonalds.. Every weekend (without fail) a heap of Mcdonalds debris makes it way to outside my home..

    I don't know whose doing it, I think everyone is & it's just the wind/elements etc that push the rubbish away from mcdonalds & into the surrounding area.. It's little wonder there are ppl in beautiful Tecoma protesting against a mcdonalds being built there (such a nice area, within 1km of a national park)..

      Maybe a word to the McD's manager might get them to swing past and pick up the littter generated by thier business. I get the impression that McDs are keen to make the impression that they are a good community and corporate citizen. You could probably work that to your favor

        This works. I worked at Maccas as a young teen and we'd have to clean up the carpark and surrounding shops carparks too when asked. We'd even have to venture out to some peoples private homes to clean up Maccas rubbish.

      If not much else works, pick it all up in a big bag and empty in store.

    1. Hide in the nearest bush dressed as Ronald McDonald.
    2. Leap out, surprising offender.
    3. Run away from flaming wreckage.
    4. ?
    5. Profit.

    "the person is grabbing food in town and finishes eating it at roughly the same time"I find that highly improbable! Being a rural property suggests a drive by not a walker depending on the location of course. He would have to be doing the exact same speed constantly for the entire trip, every day to get it in the right spot every time if he's doing it without thought. More likely he's doing it to be a dick! You could try to whittle the time he's doing it by trial and error but it seems like a long shot. However once he knows he's been sprung, most likely he'll stop. Unless of course he a complete dick.... Unfortunately the world is full of 'em...

    Last edited 10/07/13 2:25 pm

      The question mentioned a few times a week. So not everyday Other days the rubbish might end up in other places.

        The culprit might not get takeaway every day of the week...?
        Either way, people can be real pigs on the road, or for that matter, anywhere.

    Any younger people in your family?

    This always happened in my parents old street (and now new one..) and was, almost without fail, from the same group of people - my youngest brother's friends. Early 20-23 year olds sitting in a car eating fast food out the front of a friends house apparently can't be bothered walking the 15 metres to the bin. Even when someone who lives at the house is in the car with them.

    I don't have anything against taxi drivers but I see them parked in front of my place and then later on I find the rubbish on the curb.

    I say hide in the bushes with a paintball gun. Litter on their property... with high speed projectiles!

    NB: This message does not constitute legal advice. The author will not be held responsible for any damages you may incur as a result of the above. Have a nice day.

    Last edited 10/07/13 5:13 pm

    I once threw something small out. Like the lining you remove when you open a packet of gum... and I felt so disgusting. I've never littered apart from that time.

    I don't know how people do it. You've got room in the car to leave it somewhere and chuck it in the bin when you get home. Same as cigarette butts. You've got an ash tray. Throw it in there, or else fuck off.

    I'd like to rehash the very similar argument from couple weeks ago regarding JUNK MAIL and the people who dump that RUBBISH all over my yard every week.

    Thankfully I live nowhere near any FF outlets etc... but doesn't stop me getting their JUNK MAIL flyers dumped about my property each week.

    Check the laws in your state before using a camera in an area that looks specifically onto public land. You can actually find yourself in trouble if you're not careful.

    A solution maybe just to put up obvious signs out the front of the property stating "Video surveillance used to catch illegal dumpers" (or similar) It'll probably just move the issue to someone elses property however.

    At the end of the day, the litterbug is a grot.

    Sit in the driveway with a bag of cheeseburgers and offer them one when they come past. They'll get the hint and you remain a nice guy. Just don't eat all the burgers before they show.

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