Public works caught trash pickers digging through residents’ recycling bins.
When Sue Drummond wrote an email to City Commissioner of Zone 4 Bill Partington, she didn’t expect a quick response. Especially since the email was about her trash.
Drummond witnessed a man in a white shirt going through her neighbor’s recycling bin Jan. 29. Though his shirt gave her the impression that he was one of the workers, she realized he was a scavenger when he asked her if it was okay to go through her bin.
“Waste Management hadn’t picked up the street’s recycling yet,” Drummond said. “I let the man take mine because I didn’t want to argue with him. But it happens so much. It’s how they make a living.”
Drummond wrote to Commissioner Partington about the man, and was surprised to get a response just few minutes later.
“Within 10 minutes he emailed me back,” Drummond said. “Usually it takes years to get something done.”
Partington jumped into action, and contacted Public Works Environmental Systems Manager Kevin Gray.
“I sent forces out to get them,” Gray said. Public Works caught up to two men in a white pickup truck taking aluminum cans out of people’s recycling bins in The Villages off Nova Road.
“We caught them with five cans,” Gray said. “We hadn’t stopped them before, so we gave them a warning. They didn’t realize they were doing anything wrong. They were so blatant about it.”
Section 10-5 of the city’s Code of Ordinances states: “The ownership of solid waste, yard waste, residential recyclables, and construction and demolition debris set out for collection shall be vested in the city, its franchisees, or its contractor, as applicable. No person shall unlawfully remove any recycling container from the property of another or remove from the property on which is located any solid waste, yard waste, residential recyclables or construction and demolition debris.”
“Anything placed on the curb is city property,” Gray said, “even furniture. A lot of people don’t know that. It’s a punishable crime by up to a $500 fine and imprisonment at the discretion of court. There are a lot of scavengers in the area. We enlighten them, and they usually go someplace else.”
Gray said the scavengers are normally after aluminum cans that they can sell to scrap yards for a small profit. The city also sells those cans, which helps to pay for the Waste Management pickup service.
“I’m not trying to be the bad guy, but the residents pay for the service,” Gray said.
“It seems a little petty at first blush,” Partington said in an email, “but if you think about hundreds of bins of aluminum it could add up to hundreds or thousands of dollars every recycle day.”
Though the scavengers may have been scared off that day, Drummond said she’s sure she will see them again.
“When they dig through the bins, stuff gets all over,” Drummond said. “They don’t pick it up. I didn’t put them in there for them to take. Those people are making a good living at the expense of the citizens.”
To report any scavenging, call Gray’s direct line at 676-3577.