Dumpster diving: Do it at CU-Boulder and face a $1,000 fine

I've found some of my most cherished possessions by dumpster diving, including a headless, armless half-mannequin nicknamed Venus de Milo that proudly models robes in the corner of my bedroom.

But if I saw Venus's shapely figure peaking from the top of a dumpster in Boulder this week, taking her could cost me $1,000.

That's the message from the CU-Boulder Police Department, which says the week or so following graduation at the campus has become such a free-for-all, tempting plenty of non-students to go shopping through rubbish in search of treasure, that something had to be done.

"It's not a crackdown," emphasizes CU-Boulder Police spokeswoman Molly Bosley. "It's more our attempt to ratchet up safety. Each year at this time, we see a significant increase of non-affiliated people coming to our university to go through our dumpsters, and it creates very real safety concerns for the campus."

How so?

"There are liability concerns if someone was to fall and injure himself," she notes. "And there's the opportunity for surprise confrontations between residents and people coming to the campus to go through the dumpsters -- and that raises the possibility of conflicts."

Moreover, she points out that extra dumpsters brought in for move-out week "are in very close proximity to the residence halls. We've had people trying to go into the halls through open doors or people soliciting students for things. Students will be carrying things to their car and have people come up to them and say, 'Are you throwing that away?' It just makes a lot of students uncomfortable."

On top of that, Bosley goes on, nearby residents have been known to take advantage of those extra dumpsters to save themselves a trip to the nearest landfill -- meaning the receptacles often contain stuff that's potentially a lot more hazardous than old pillows and cracked bongs.

CU-Boulder's dumpster-diving restrictions aren't new, but Bosley concedes that "our signage has been inconsistent. So this year, we wanted to make sure we have consistent messaging on the dumpsters, notifying people they could be cited for trespassing should they be found going through a dumpster."

That doesn't mean the department has extra squads on the street to stake out trash cans. In fact, Bosley says officers are more likely to deliver warnings than citations. Still, the threat of a fine is "another tool in our tool box to use should a situation develop that justifies us going to that level."

Oh yeah: The dumpsters should be gone by week's end... along with the temptation that comes with them.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts