Home » Boyle Heights In Focus, Featured » Opinion: Los Angeles needs better system to avoid trash, recyclables scavenging

Photo by Flickr user waltarrrrr/ Creative Commons

Photo by Flickr user waltarrrrr/ Creative Commons

Wednesday is trash collection day in my little corner of Boyle Heights, and every week, I face the same daunting situation. I look out my front door or window and find a stranger half-buried inside my blue recycle bin sifting through my trash.

We have all seen them as they prowl the night, and sometimes the day, pulling out bottles, aluminum cans, plastics; anything of value.

I have often wondered why it bothers me so much to have strangers rummage through my trash.  Something about it makes me feel like they’re invading my privacy.

The Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation operates the largest curbside recycling program in the United States, born from California Assembly Bill 939, in 1989. Residents are provided with blue recycle bins in an effort to raise revenue and help conserve the environment.

Read: Trash picking to pay rent in LA

In a March 2009 Municipal Recycling Survey, the city ranked as the No. 1 top recycler among the 10 most populous cities in the country.

It was a program whose time had come.

As good as the city’s recycling program is, it’s being compromised collection day scavengers.

In recent years, I have been waiting until morning to put my recycle bin on the curb because of my aversion to the rampant scavenging that takes place in my neighborhood on Tuesday nights.

The problem with this practice is that curbside pick-up times seem to be random. Sometimes the recycle truck comes early, sometimes it comes late.

At about 11 a.m., last Wednesday, a lone male came through my neighborhood and zeroed in on my recycle bin.

Not only was he pulling out my recyclables, but he was neatly lining up his cache for all the neighborhood to see.

“Something must be done,” I thought.

Blue bin scavenging is illegal in L.A.  It is punishable with a $500 fine and/or six months in jail, but I’ve yet to see anyone stopped by police.

Maybe we should model after the City of Anaheim, which implemented an anti-scavenging program in 1994 to help protect revenues.

Its anti-scavenging team not only responds to resident complaints, but also patrols its communities to help prevent this type of theft.

The city also suggests that residents keep their recycle bins behind fences, putting valuable recyclables in the bottom of the bins and to wait until 7 a.m. on collection day to place their bins curbside.

Much has been written on this subject in the past, and usually from the perspective that these people are simply trying to survive in a poor economy.

It has been said that most recycle bin scavengers are homeless and in dire need of a money, but those I’ve run into are not homeless people.

I would feel much better if it were indeed the homeless who were engaged in this practice.  At least it could be argued that they are doing it to survive and there is nothing wrong with that.

Many of these people are simply taking advantage of the system and stealing from the city.

It is time for Los Angeles to do something about this problem.
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Do you feel a better anti-scavening program should be developed in L.A.?

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8 Responses to “Opinion: Los Angeles needs better system to avoid trash, recyclables scavenging”

  1. Jessica Duran March 8, 2013

    No. It’s not necessary. The writer has personal dislike and who would even fund this?

    I think the writer has a bone to pick for personal reasons that are not all that well founded. The writer has a concern over personal invasion of privacy but it’s over trash- discarded items that are probably going to be sifted through by the waste staff. And really if you put it out in the curb, a public area , how much privacy do you want for your trash!

    The people picking through cans provide a greater benefit that the writer’s proposal. They are finding the recyclables that many forget to separate and place in the blue cans .

  2. jesus hermosillo March 9, 2013

    I would encourage Mr. Ugalde to continue his introspection, and try to figure out why it bothers him so much that some people’s way of keeping a roof over their heads—-if they indeed manage to—-is by sifting through people’s trash.

    It hurts to imagine the process by which a person with severely limited life options finally concludes that they must resort to scavenging. I doubt it’s a cheerful occupation. My trash, at least, isn’t pretty. (Wait… maybe that’s Mr. Ugalde’s concern too?)

  3. Elbatmanuel March 11, 2013

    It’s illegal to take recyclable from the blue bin. The city does not charge for the blue bin because they make money from the recyclable they get. They give you a free bin and make recycling convient to residents and you give them your valuable trash, that’s the deal. Anyone digging through it gets your valuable garbage but they supplied you with nothing. Often times they leave a big mess. Just because we assume its the poor going through the trash doesn’t mean they get a free pass from obeying laws.

    Remember that people also toss old mail in the blue bins and many scavengers look for mail with personal information. Old bills disregarded credit card offers, identiy theft often comes people stealing your info from the blue bin. Should we be ok with it when your Bank or CC info gets taken or do we draw the line at aluminum cans? Just because its at the curb doesn’t mean anyone can take it.

  4. I have no problem with people “stealing” from the city in this way to pay their rent… The city steals from its citizens often enough. Useless permits & inspections that only exist to bring in cash for the city – parking tickets on “street cleaning day” EVERY week even though the street cleaners only come by once every few weeks. The parking enforcement Mafia arrive 3-5 minutes after the posted “no parking” time every week – but where are they when someone blocks your garage and makes you late for work? They have one or two guys per area of town and it usually takes at LEAST an hour to get the car removed. This is STEALING from the citizens… I have no sympathy for “the man” who robs us at gunpoint because someone pics up the spare change that falls out of “his” pocket.
    As far as people being upset because of potential identity theft – for Christ’s sake – grow a brain and buy a shredder. NEVER put anything in the trash or recycle like credit card statements or other things with personal information on it. If you’re stupid enough to throw that kind of stuff out unaltered, you probably shouldn’t be allowed a credit card anyway.

  5. Elbatmanuel March 21, 2013

    Department of Sanitation is separate from building and Saftey, which is separate from street cleaning, which is separate from parking enforcement, which is separate from the private tow companies that move cars from your driveway. None of the thing you use for justification for stealing have anything to do with each other other than they’re called City services. They all have different budgets, different bosses, different workers, different jobs, different directives and different responsibilities. There’s no conspiracy to steal from you, that’s your own crazy theory to justify what ever it is you want to justify. But the truth is that the ticket lady has nothing to do with the recycling program and they have nothing to do with building permits, there’s no conspiracy to rob you by gun point. those are just people doing their jobs.
    I love how your whole reply puts the blame on everyone else for the justification of stealing but if it happens to you it’s your fault for being a victim because your too dumb or poor to go out and protect yourself. Contradict yourself much?
    I imagine your conversations with the cops goes sonething like this:
    Ya officer Its ok that i stole from this guys because someone parked infront of my garage yesterday and today I got a parking ticket and that’s like stealing from me. An eye for an eye you know.

  6. Elbatmanuel March 21, 2013

    It’s not about saying the city victimizes me so then ill victimize the city it about recognizing the struggle of others and making a conscious choice to help them out of illegal activities and assist them (if you want) to pay rent.
    I personally keep all of my valuable recyclable out of the blue bin. The only stuff that goes in there is food containers, styrafoam and paper, things people dont normally recycle for money.
    I give my valuable trash to my next door neighbor who recycles to pay rent. I make a conscious effort to give my glass, aluminum and cardboard to him so he doesn’t dig in my trash, to me its a more humane way then forcing him to dig in the trash. But that doesn’t stop others from doing it. Justifying the act of garbage rummaging doesn’t make it ok or right. If you want to support the poor by donating your recyclables lets talk about how we can donate it to them if you choose in a humane, dignified way. Instead of degrading them by forcing people to illegally dig through our garbage why not separate it and have it ready for them to pickup, this way they’re no longer illegal scavengers but willing recipients of donations.

  7. The problem isn’t this or that.
    Employers don’t want to train people without the skills
    People are not being educated in school to get a job right after high school
    People over 30 are being laid off for people are are willing to work cheaper
    Benefits are being cut
    People are losing their homes
    Medical bills are rising & insurance is being cut
    Programs are losing funding

    However…. people need to pay bills and feed themselves and their family. The items are being recycled no matter what so does it really matter who gets the money from the recyclables?

    The people most at fault are those who buy the items that need to be recycled. Buy less recycle less and buy items that come in a container that has a much longer purpose then a week or two.

    Metal & plastic containers can be used for all sorts of storage – decorate it and you have a new container for pens, tacs, pennies, loose buttons, bus tokens, laundry quarters.

    Soda cans – Cut off the top, dip it in Plasti Dip and you can also use it for all kinds of open storage – see metal & plastic container ideas.

  8. I had a new experience this morning…someone went through my trash, dumped all the garbage out into the bin and took my plastic bags! My bin is now covered in bacon grease, coffee grounds, and dog shit – yes, they emptied out the poop bags that I used ~ I clean up after my dog when he goes. . I had to wash it out or I would have had a million bugs in it not to mention that when they dumped the bin, because it was no longer contained, my trash went blowing into my driveway which I then had to pick up again. What the hell is wrong with people? I keep my garbage in a garbage bag because I don’t want to have to clean my bin out and I want my trash to actually make it into the truck!

    I return all my CRV items to the store so there is none of that in my recycleables. I own the items until I put them out for the city to pick up. I paid for them and now I am trying to help the city pay for their recycling program. I have lived in an area that could not make recycling worthwhile and did not have a CRV deposit, the landfills were overflowing. I have to keep my blue bin inside the gate until I hear the truck in order for them to get to where I wish them to go.

    If I have good reusable stuff that I no longer want, furnishings, dishes, etc. I will box them up and put them out a full day before trash day for people to take and use and there is no mistaking it for trash!