I have some answers from the city on the questions I had about the rules for removing junk that was set out for trash pickup. I’ll get to that in a later post, first some discussion on the whole trash issue.
The three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle. It is taught to little kids in school, it is the mantra of anyone who cares about the problems we have in a society that wastes too much, worships new stuff when old versions are still working, and is filling the dump sites to overflowing. All of the R’s are not simple to do, reusing is especially problematic for people who don’t want to use Craigslist, and find it simpler to set still good material out by the trash.
I’ve read a lot of online wrangling over taking discarded stuff, if you want to see some people flipping out, just search for the comments that get posted whenever Freegans are mentioned. The less extreme practices of people who just pick a few choice items sitting out by trash cans can also cause the heebie-jeebies in certain types. In order to preempt some of the arguments that occur over and over when this issue is discussed, I’m going to do a brief summary of the past discussion.
The xenophobe (also known as The Trump)
This person has a fear based response. “The hordes of poor people will come into our little city and strip it bare! We must defend it from all trespassers!”
The xenophobe has an over-developed defense reaction to what is a minor problem. I can’t provide statistics for an issue which occurs out of sight for most people, with no consequences. But I would guess there is only a tiny number of people who do scrapping in alleys who also steal stuff. After all, you are placing a big obvious sign on yourself when you have scrap metals into the back of your truck, the police have no questions about what you are doing. Only the dumbest of thieves would think it was a good plan to steal stuff then continue to drive around with the stolen material in full view.
All the discussion and worries about scrappers are out of date. The prices of scrap metals have bottomed out, there is no money to be made by scrappers anymore. Maybe prices will go back up, but for now this discussion is moot – you will not see scrappers when it costs more in gas than can be earned by scouring alleys.
Bad news for recyclers too, the city’s recycling program cost the city about $20 a ton to have it taken away. Regular trash cost $40 a ton to have it taken to the dump, so it makes financial sense for the city to recycle, it just isn’t putting us in the plus column (these numbers per Director of Administration Patrik Bowman).