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Hard rubbish is there for taking

THE great Australian tradition of scavenging from hard rubbish left on suburban nature strips has been given the all-clear after a brush with police.

Officers have all but scrapped their plan to charge a pensioner with theft after he took a vacuum cleaner from a hard-rubbish collection.

It seems it was all a big misunderstanding.

Police said Trevor Flood, 58, was acting suspiciously when they arrested him about 12.15am yesterday in Chirnside Park.

Police initially told Mr Flood he would be charged on summons with theft, which outraged Shire of Yarra Ranges residents and Herald Sun online readers.

Supt Jeff Forti said only when Mr Flood was taken to the Mooroolbark police station did he explain the vacuum cleaner was from a hard rubbish collection.

"As it has turned out today, we do believe that the property was from a hard rubbish collection and, as a result of that, even though a brief of evidence will be submitted, it is unlikely that we will be prosecuting him," Supt Forti said.

"If he had offered that at the time, it may not have gone any further."

Supt Forti went on to give scavengers the green light to raid hard rubbish piles.

He said the idea that hard rubbish on nature strips was the property of a council or a council contractor was a "fallacy" and "urban myth".

"If the owner puts the property out the front and says, 'I don't care who takes it, it's not mine, I don't want it any more' - whoever takes it, there is no theft involved."

Supt Forti said he encouraged scavengers to knock on people's doors as a courtesy.

Mr Flood's troubles began when he spotted the vacuum cleaner in Kimberley Drive while taking his dog to an all-night vet.

A woman at the family business in Lilydale, who said she was Mr Flood's sister, said he was upset about the incident.

"He said usually if he goes and picks something up, something he needs, people are out the front and they say, 'You are welcome to take it'," she said.

Another sister said the situation was "a bit silly".

Kimberley Drive residents were happy for scavengers to take their hard rubbish.

Cameron Pretty, 23, a fitter and turner, said he had no problem with scavenging as long as items weren't strewn across the street.

Tree removalist Daniel said he supported scavenging because it reduced landfill.

"Someone getting arrested for picking up something - it's not stealing. It's just an item that has been disregarded," he said.

Shire of Yarra Ranges Deputy Mayor Len Cox said there was no local law to prohibit people taking items put out for hard waste collection.


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