It was bound to happen eventually. I finally got a ticket for trash picking in Mount Royal after receiving three previous warnings (first, second, the third I don’t think I bothered to mention).

To clarify, some boroughs of Montreal have their own government and bylaws. While trash picking is legal (or, at the very least the laws are never enforced) in most of the city, some parts of town have laws against it. One of those boroughs is the Town of Mount Royal (TMR), a wealthy suburban community not too far away from my place in the Plateau.

I knew that it was probably just a matter of time before I got a ticket. It’s just that the trash there has been too good to give up on. TMR has lots of money and a rich history – a profitable combination for a trash picker like me. It’s also great that it’s not too far from home.

My strategy has just been to avoid the local security guys as much as possible. It’s worked pretty well, considering that I’m there nearly every week but have only had a few previous encounters.


That night felt a bit like a game of cat and mouse. I kept seeing this security guy driving around, but they can’t seem to do much as long as I’m in or just entering my car. I successfully dodged him on a few occasions, but he did eventually catch up with me.

I saw that white SUV for the umpteenth time that night and drove into the side roads to lose him. I stopped not long after because I wanted to check out the picture frame in the picture above. If I were being super cautious I wouldn’t have stopped so soon, but I figured I was probably just being paranoid. Before I got out of the car I checked my rear-view mirror; I thought I saw a SUV moving slowly in the distance (maybe 150m behind me), but decided it was an illusion because the headlights weren’t on.

I noticed the SUV bearing down – lights still off – on my position while checking out the frame. (Whether rent-a-cops should be allowed to drive down roads at midnight with no lights on is another question entirely). I figured I was screwed, as I wasn’t about to run to the car and drive off really quick, and accepted my fate. The cat (who’s definitely not like Thomasina the enchanted cat from my last post!) had pounced and caught their prey.

The specific bylaw is 1358 37(1): “No person shall… rummage through a container or bin of refuse, commercial refuse, construction refuse, hazardous household waste, bulky refuse, recoverable secondary materials or yard waste.” The fine is 220$, a fairly hefty sum for someone like me.

I haven’t decided what to do about it yet. I’m definitely angry, as I think the bylaw is dumb on many different counts. However, it’d be hard to fight since I clearly committed the “crime.” The only way I could possibly fight it, at least in my layman’s interpretation of the law, is to go big and try to argue that it’s my right under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to be able to rummage through materials that are clearly abandoned. I’d love to fight it, not just for myself but also on behalf of trash pickers across the country (some of whom are already marginalized) who are punished by these sorts of laws.

However, my (somewhat spite motivated) fantasy is probably pretty far-fetched and would involve a tonne of resources I don’t have. I’ll likely end up having to pay the ticket. Whether this effects my trash picking habits remains to be seen. I don’t really have anywhere else to go on Tuesday night so the temptation to return is strong. I may just have to be more cautious, though at a certain point that cautiousness morphs into a paranoia which I don’t at all enjoy.

Despite the fine I still managed to load the car with trash. Here are the things I saved that the Town of Mount Royal would apparently prefer to destroy. It’s worth noting that I could have saved way more, but I only have so much time, space, and energy to work with.

I saved the picture frame from the photo above; …


… a box full of books, including copies of The Plague by Camus and Walden by Thoreau;


… an interesting clay sculpture;


… an unexciting but functional shoe rack;


… a cool trunk;


… a Waterloo Shop Series tool chest (which goes new for around 150+ shipping);


… a nice framed print (perhaps an old engraving?);


… a lamp;


… a stack of records,


… including three unusual medical LPs which I presume are lectures on the various topics;


… a nice plant, which unfortunately broke a bit when it was placed into the bag;


… and three books full of 1980s baseball cards. None are super valuable, but they’re fun to look at.

68 thoughts on “Ticketed!”

    1. that really is not fair, you are doing a favour by recyling these items, and cleaning them up for someone to enjoy… some laws are so out dated.. really, you are not harming anyone. actually doing a favour… sorry to hear about the silly ticket.
      good luck in the future… and happy picking.. love your site..

      1. It’s true. I think a lot of people just don’t regard scavenging as a legitimate job… oh well. Glad you like the blog!

  1. Honestly, there should be a bylaw against throwing away things that are recyclable or reusable/donate-able. If you have to pay the fine, maybe you can put a bit of pressure on TMR to rethink this silliness by generating some press about it…

    1. Haha. Thing is, there kind of is. I should read that by-law in full sometime, but I’ve definitely found materials in TMR trash (including bullets, laptops, paints, and other hazardous materials) that are definitely prohibited, not to mention people who are generally terrible at recycling which I assume is also prohibited. Maybe I could rat them out in exchange for relaxed fines… ha ha. Just kidding, that would be bad for business (unfortunately).

  2. I’ve been reading your blog for MONTHS now! It always blows me away what people are throwing away! Just about any college freshman would LOVE to have Walden! πŸ˜‰ Sorry you got a ticket. I’d maybe try to fight it or at least write a very sternly worded letter to the editor.

  3. Maybe you should go to court with pics of all the things you have found and saved to show the judge (probably leave out your income from it). Especially the historical books/emphemra that you have saved and “donated to the historical museums”). It might make more sense to them then and possibly you will assist in changing the law. Your presence is also a sort of “security” too. πŸ™‚ I wish I could find the things you do!

    1. And perhaps some letters by the historical museums stating the historical/cultural value of your past donations as well could help sway the judge???

      I live in a town north of Kansas City, Missouri (smack in the middle of the US for those of you who are in other countries). All of the big communities around here have 2 “large” trash days a year where you can put out furniture, and all sorts of stuff. It is perfectly acceptable for others to drive around (some in pick ups with trailers) and take whatever they want. People here also donate and/or shop at thrift stores frequently. Ever since I have started reading your blog, it has really surprised me what you find, especially cash!

      There is a dumpster at work that Is near an apartment complex. I have found lots of NICE things in it on Monday mornings. I also don’t have a problem stopping on the side of the road in the daytime if I spot something someone has dumped that I can use. (Although I don’t think I’d personally ever open trash bags, I don’t think there is anything wrong with doing what you do.)

      Guess there is just a different attitude toward donating and shopping used items in the states than in Canada.

      I’d see if there is some way to fight your ticket and see if you can start making changes in the law there! Good luck!!!

    2. I’d love to do this, but it would be extremely time consuming. Maybe someday after I become rich (one can dream) I’ll try to make a statement!

  4. Gad, how very upper class of TMR! Sorry to hear you got ticketed. And that’s not chump change either! If there are any media types reading … definitely a little TV/radio publicity would go a long way about now.

    You managed to salvage an interesting batch of stuff. I know you’ll make good use of that trunk.

    The plant is a variety of dracena. It will come back quite readily. If you cut the breaks back, sprouts will come out near the stump. You can also root the cuttings. http://gardening.stackexchange.com/questions/8847/how-to-prune-an-overgrown-and-now-flowering-dracaena

    Given that you found that framed print in TMR, it may be more than your average framed print.

    Medical LPs? That’s different.

    1. What kind of light does that plant enjoy? My room isn’t particularly sunny, but by the window isn’t too bad.

      I think the print might actually be a nice one (see Sandrina’s Facebook comment), but it’s hard for me to tell without opening it up. Unfortunately I’m not an expert on such things…

  5. Oh no! Could you argue that you weren’t technically rummaging through anything? I mean the frame was clearly out on the curb for someone to take. It’s not like you tore open bags, boxes or bins…It’s ridiculous to get fined over just taking something sitting there! I’m pissed on your behalf πŸ™

    1. I think that provision is written so as to include any kind of trash picking related activity. But yes, it is a pretty dumb fine!

  6. Maybe we could start a petition? Like everybody else, I think it’s a scandal to let people throw such great objects and have YOU to pay the fine. In Montreal, there are many places where people can donate their belongings. In my city, we don’t have that opportunity. Still, I manage to give to friends, schools, organisms, what I don’t use anymore.
    Sorry for my bad English, but be assured that all of us believe in the relevance of what you’re doing.

    1. I’m just going to pay this one, but if I get another (which I assume might be larger) I’ll consider further action. It is pretty silly! So many of my great finds have come from this neighbourhood.

  7. One problem about going to the media, is drawing attention to what you are doing, and others will certainly want to get in on the action. It’s a shame, when you are saving items from the landfill. I can only think the cops are trying to discourage having too many scavengers out there, creating a traffic problem or having trash strewn about. I don’t get it though. You always leave things tidy. I would hate to see you being stopped!

    1. That’s true. I rarely see other pickers in TMR, which I assume is due to the actions of local security. I think they mostly want to keep scavengers away in general, as some people are upset by their presence.

  8. I don’t think it is necessarily that costly. Please do one thing: bring your situation to the McGill Legal Clinic http://licm.mcgill.ca. You’ll get great advice there.

    You have several counts against you (you can’t claim you didn’t know the bylaw), but is the bylaw even binding? I’m am not an expert on municipal law, but law students might know of precedents.

    Obviously, this is also a great Charter case, but yeah, cash not growing on trees. Plus, you’d really need to start doing more advocacy about it.

    1. I plan on paying the fine, but may ask for information anyways. I could be fined again (and for more money) in the future, so it’d be good to be somewhat more prepared for it.

  9. We live in a large apartment complex. People who are moving often throw away perfectly good stuff rather than donate it or sell it. Sometimes the stuff is brand new with tags still attached. One time my husband rescued brand new pots and pans, Pyrex bowls and casserole dishes. There was so much stuff that my husband had to leave some of it on our front steps and bring it in armfuls at a time. The guy who threw the stuff away followed my husband’s car to our apartment and when my husband went inside the guy climbed three flights of stairs to take back his stuff and throw it away in the dumpster! Then he threatened my husband when he tried to get back the stuff. Go figure.

  10. Please write an op-ed piece to The Gazette.A lot of people and readers will support you,but some may not.Other scavengers will support you,however.I am a part-time scavenger who picks up art,furniture,cans,bottles,books,etc from the trash in Ahuntsic and Ville St.Laurent.I have never gotten a ticket in 10 years of rummaging.Please write in The Gazette in the first-person voice.And do fight the fine.This fine is extremely,extremely unjust.

    1. I will considering doing this at some point, but for now I’d like to stay mostly anonymous and continue working on my other projects!

  11. Please don’t pay the fine—-fight it all the way.It is very unfair to levy a fine on someone like you.If I were you,I would go to the media,make a big fuss about it and get the bylaw changed.The reader who said that the media would give you the wrong publicity is being not quite correct.We all see scavengers rooting through the trash for cans,bottles,scrap material,etc in most areas already.What is wrong with just making people accept scavenging?Fight.And educate.Teach more people about the importance of what you are doing.

  12. Just sayin’, if you do end up paying the fine, I’ll be down to contribute. We read your blog, we enjoy your finds – I feel like a little contribution from your readers who can afford to would go a long way.

  13. I am shocked by how much good stuff is thrown away in the trash in Town of Mount Royal.Why are more TMR residents not getting upset about that?

    1. They probably don’t read the blog, ha ha. Maybe a few of the 20000 or so do, though. I’d be curious to know.

  14. The people of the Town of Mount Royal should rally to eliminate this archaic and stupid bylaw.As it is,people in that neighborhood in particular need to be educated to throw out far less reusable stuff and treasures in the garbage.Keep on trucking.

  15. The clay sculpture is Mexican and is known as the ‘circle of friends’. Good luck with the fine!

  16. I’m throwing my two (Canadian) cents in: fight the ticket. Maybe a newspaper would be interested in taking up the cause. This is a wasteful law and should be laid to rest. If you get up enough courage, talk to some of the residents of the Town of Mount Royal, explaining that you are not a trashpicker, per se, but a historian saving the past. If the residents approve of your rounds and lend their support, the law may be overturned more easily.
    Good luck either way!

  17. Like everyone above, I am sorry to read about your ticket/fine. It is clear to all of us that you are doing a great service. However, I am aware that it would take precious time and perhaps money to fight/challenge this law. And you may not want to get involved in publicizing this injustice. But your blog is such a great document to support the value of what you do… you might be well-positioned to help re-balance our society on this particular issue of consumption/destruction? And you write so well. I love the idea of an op-ed piece in a local paper β€” perhaps having been informed/advised by McGill Law students. Thank you, as always, for your inspiring blog posts.

    1. I probably don’t want to invest the time money into challenging the ticket. I do like the idea of an op-ed though. Maybe not now, but sometime down the line a bit.

  18. If you go to the media they will probably hear of, and find, this blog. Just sayin’. You might not want that much publicity….?

    1. I would, maybe 10$? I’d only want to sell it locally though as it’s fairly large and would be annoying to pack.

  19. So sorry to hear about your ticket, it’s such a waste to have such a stupid law, obviously meant to protect people, but doing more harm than good. I have an interest in the picture frame and the trunk and now a car to pick things up! Any idea how much you’d sell those for? Thanks!

  20. Man, that just sucks! Who are you actually harming that there has to be a law against what you’re doing? I am so bummed that happened to you. You’ve become quite the inspiration for me. I re-sell stuff at a flea market, and you have alerted me to the amount of stuff out there that people just toss away. I try to come home with something I’ve rescued every day that I can sell to someone who wants/needs it. I hope the ticket doesn’t discourage you. I’d be willing to contribute something towards the fine.

    1. They probably just don’t want to be overrun by scavengers. There’s identity thefts concerns I guess, but I expect this law predates that. Glad the blog has inspired you! I’ll post soon about how to contribute, if you’re interested.

  21. I agree with the majority; fight the fine, if you have to pay it, then consider it a “cost of doing business.” And, like the others, I would contribute something toward the fine. Of course, you’ll let us know when … and how (paypal?).

  22. Hi, I follow your blog from Ottawa – it’s great and I am so impressed by your finds. I don’t think you will win fighting this ticket though. I’m sorry to sound so prosaic, but in addition to reasons already stated for such a bylaw like traffic or trash strewn about (and noise), there are also potential safety issues, like you getting stuck by an improperly discarded needle, cut by glass, dealing with biohazards or chemicals, picking up a bedbug infestation etc. I know you are careful and you risk manage these things, but you’re savvy and responsible. I still don’t think it’s right for people to be chucking these things (vs. donating/recycling), and an educational campaign is a great idea – I see your blog as an education and I think a lot about what you save. Media types would surely be interested and at the very least, TMR should have “Give Away Weekends” like we do in Ottawa where free good stuff is put out on specific days and picking is encouraged (if they don’t already). Sadly, I just missed ours. Good luck!

    1. They should do that. Different communities do have days like this (Montreal West being one example). I agree that I probably wouldn’t win a case, though I don’t the town gives half a damn about my personal safety as a picker.

    1. TMR seems to work with the local municipal court in regards to these fines. I doubt it would end well for me. The government is quite good at getting their money

  23. Is there any way to “ask” the community to credential you somehow? I know it sounds far fetched. But, they’ve stated that they don’t want to encourage people going through their trash, etc. It’s upper class and they don’t like to view that activity.

    Maybe, in exchange, they would name you the official salvage/recycle person? That could ease their conscious about not being green, yet keep their original intent of not having a good reason not to allow hundreds of people into their neighborhood searching. Seems like a win/win. This blog should serve as an excellent resume for you about how you work and your standards, etc. They could tell you exactly what worries or offends them and you could work within that structure. And you might even get notified before trash day with time to go through the stuff properly – as in the cases where a family is trying to empty a house after a death. As others are saying, you are performing a valuable service. They could pat themselves on the back for being visionary and contracting with you.

    1. It’s a fun idea but I doubt they’d go for it. I’m a random outsider, and there’s little benefit to them letting me look through their trash. If nothing else there’s a lot of personal information to be found, and people with know-how can use that to steal identities and such. The town (at least in their eyes) would be taking a big risk in allowing a person they don’t really know full access to their citizens trash.

  24. Well, I would appear in court and state my case. It cannot hurt. Look at the wording of the law. Definitely go for a reduced fine. You are saving the earth, and the judge may have sympathy towards that. I would!

    1. I believe that if you fight and lose in court in a civil case you have to pay court fees, which would add a bit of insult to injury. I’d love to fight it but I don’t really have a case.

  25. This is in response to KB’s interesting comments from Ottawa.His idea of giving more usable stuff to charities is worthy;however many charities throw out a lot of good donations.Hence the idea of individual scavengers saving stuff is great.

      1. Yes, I was not saying you should not scavenge at all – I support it and do think this is a good community service. I was just stating what you would get from the municipal government as reasons why the bylaw is there in the first place – you would not get exceptional treatment, in my opinion. You added another reason for such bylaws- identity theft. ITA re: charities tossing perfectly good things-especially vintage and ephemera. And Ottawa has too many bylaws. Just being realistic about your chances – think that sadly you made the most efficient decision. Hope you never get ticketed again and glad that your time will be spent in keeping up this most interesting blog- thank you!

  26. All the people writing about having ‘designated trash pickers’,’official scavengers’ are getting it wrong.There is too much good stuff thrown out in our society.No one individual or organization can save or repurpose all the good reusable stuff junked.The more the number of scavengers,the more stuff will be saved.

    1. True. I don’t have the time and energy to save even a fraction of what I come across on any given day! I try to save only what I think is “special”, but things that aren’t special are often good enough for those in need.

  27. Poor people around the world always have depended on scavenging to survive or increase their income.Some well-off people scavenge too to make extra money and to save the environment.The government has no business allowing only some people to get a permit to scavenge.Everyone has a right to make extra money from discarded stuff.

  28. I live on the South Shore and am a part-time scavenger.I do not think you should pay this ticket.I make some money from scavenging and I do not want the government to regulate it or make it illegal for most people.How dare they ban scavenging?

  29. You are getting an incredible wave of support from readers.If you must pay the ticket,you will be able to raise all your money from blog readers and sympathizers who contribute through paypal or online.But there has been no reaction from you to the comments.What do you think?I hope you continue scavenging TMR.

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