Dear Lifehacker, am I allowed to take things from my workplace that have been thrown out for disposal? I'm often asked to throw things into a skip that I think still have some value. Can I legally "save" them? Thanks, Pack Rat
Unwanted equipment picture from Shutterstock
To the best of our knowledge, there are no laws that explicitly prohibit the salvaging of discarded goods from dumpsters, with a few caveats. For example, you can't just wander onto private property and start rooting through their garbage — that would be trespassing. But as an employee of the company, you already have permission to be there.
As long as the disposed goods are destined for the tip (as opposed to a charity or other beneficiary) it should be fair game. The business relinquished its claim when the item was placed in the trash. With that said, your company might have its own policy in place that bans employees from this practice.
There are a whole slew of reasons why they might not want you to repurpose old, abandoned equipment. For example, if something malfunctioned and you or your property got damaged, the temptation to seek some form of compensation would be high.
After all, it was their equipment and they let you take it home. Some of the blame must surely lay with them, right? Unfortunately, this is how a lot of people think. Personal responsibility tends to be side-stepped when money is on the line.
Similarly, if the "refuse" is particularly useful or valuable, it could lead to arguments in the office and accusations of nepotism among employees who missed out. These are headaches that management don't need: better to just throw it all out and be done with it.
In any event, you should always ask permission before reclaiming company equipment as your own. Secretly hoarding stuff after you were specifically instructed to throw it in the trash is sneaky and dishonest. If your boss ever found out, we doubt they'd look very favourably upon you.
If you really want something that's destined for the tip, do the right thing and put a request in. The worst they can do is say no.
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