Rental truck 'stealing' your trash is actually contracted by King County

KENMORE, Wash. – A trash study by King County had a Kenmore homeowner believing she was the victim of identity thieves.

Sandi England said she was caught off-guard when a Penske truck pulled up to her home on garbage day at 5:30 a.m.

“I thought, why is this truck out here so early?" she said.

England said she watched as one of the men got out with a flashlight and started looking through the garbage cans.

“I thought they were probably going through looking for something,” said England.

She thought they were looking for personal information to steal her identity.

“It was really unusual, kind of scary.”

England asked the men what they were doing and they told her they were conducting a study. No, really.

The study is being conducted by King County in conjunction with waste service companies. Started in November 2015, they are collecting garbage from randomly selected homes in King County to research compost habits.

“We don’t notify people ahead of time, and we’ve heard concerns from people about that,” said Jeff Gaisford, the Recycling and Environmental Services manager with King County Solid Waste. “Part of the reason we do that is we don’t want to influence behavior.”

“We want people to take food scraps out of the garbage and put it in their yard waste cart for composting,” he said. “The largest share of what people put in their homes is food scraps, it’s almost 30 percent of what’s in your garbage.”

For the homes that are selected for the study, tags are being placed on the trash bins explaining what can be composted. Gaisford said if you’ve seen a tag on your bin, you’re a part of the study. Some people may receive up to four tags, others one. Part of the study is to determine if frequency of reminders make a difference in behavior.

“We’ve done a lot of brochures, we mail things to people's households, we’re trying a new way of reaching out to people. We figure at some point you have to go out and get your cart and so we hope that the message goes through more directly,” said Gaisford.

The study, called Residential Cart Tagging Project, will continue into March.

“If they would’ve sent something out, I would’ve known. I would’ve said, oh, here’s the little study truck that’s parked out there,” said England.  “They could’ve done that six months ago.”

Gaisford said the trucks, most likely rental trucks, should have identification signs on the side indicating that they are working with the county on a study. England said the truck she saw did not have any identifiers. She said she would’ve participated in the study, understanding its importance.

If you would like to opt out of the study, Gaisford said to contact your waste carrier or the county. No homeowners are notified if they are a part of the study.