What does a Garden Gnome do when she is not gardening, in the kitchen or doing genealogy? Well the answer might just surprise you so read the entries to find out more. This blog focuses on everything we do to make our house a home. There will be a strong emphasis on home energy efficiency and do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. At the same time there will also be crafts, knitting and crocheting projects along with any other little tips we do to create that down to earth, I want to be here home. Please enjoy your visit :)

Monday, January 5, 2015

Curbside Waste and Privacy

Back when I was knee high to a grasshopper, there were a few town folk who were regular garbage pickers.  Like clockwork, they would come to rummage through your trash before the garbage collectors picked it up.  It was small town Canada, a gentler time and my Mom knew them so never minded.  Over the years the garbage pickers persist but quite often especially in larger areas they are not so benign.

Household waste put to the curb for collection can tell a lot about the residents living there.  Personal information can sometimes make its way to the curb making it easy pickings for someone trying to get information on you.  Items in your trash can give a would be thief not only personal information but clues about what may be in your house, your interests and your lifestyle.

We have a garburator and paper shredder which significantly reduces what goes to the curbside.  We seldom have much more than a kitchen catcher size garbage bag of waste and our recycle bins when we are home.  Our curbside waste never goes out the night before collection mainly due to a few folks who like going through the recycle bins for cans to sell.  Most of our cans go directly to the recycler anyway so it isn't a big concern other than having to clean up the mess they make looking for can.  If the weather is nasty or I don't plan on being home to pick up the empty recycle bins as soon as they are emptied, then the curbside waste waits until the next collection date.

Surprisingly, even though there is no personal information or food scraps there is still a lot to be learned about us in those bins.  Some of that information could be used negatively, mainly to determine where we shop or some of the activities we are involved in.  I'm not concerned because it would take a lot of extrapolation on the part of anyone snooping through what little there is there in the very short window of time it is out there.

However, certain items put to the curb can be a potential problem or present privacy issues for some.  For example, an unnamed employer here had the practice of checking employees recycle bins for alcohol containers then finding a way to get rid of those employees where he found the containers because he was against the use of alcohol.  He was wrong, definitely overstepping his bounds, and finally got caught but just like incriminating Facebook posts, incriminating items in your curbside waste can have negative effects.  Curbside waste can be a target during a nasty break-up.  Packaging from electronics can be as good as an open invitation for someone to break in.  Children's schoolwork can end up in the recycle bin giving a stalker at the very least your child's name but sometimes their grade and/or teacher's name.  Armed with that it's easy to find where your child goes to school.  Some items can even give would be thieves clues as to when you're away from home or what type of security measures you are using. 

Counteract the privacy concerns of curbside waste by putting it out as close to pick-up as possible.  Be conscious of what you put to the curb.  Don't put electronic boxes to the curb.  Take these to the recycle station yourself.  Remove shipping labels as well as labels from containers that you might not want neighbours know you are using.  Really, does your neighbour need to know your hair colour is from a box?  Crush smaller boxes and containers, then put inside larger ones.  Shred anything with your name, address or other personal information.  When it comes to paper waste, if in doubt, shred it.  Take a pro-active approach when it comes to curbside waste and your privacy.