Commentary: Should the City of Davis Pass Anti-Scavenging Ordinance?

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scavenging-lawOn Tuesday’s city council agenda is an item that has not gotten a lot of attention.  The city is putting forth an anti-scavenging ordinance, arguing it “supports the fiscal principle of cost effective service delivery and the sustainability principle of conserving resources in an environmentally responsible manner.”

According to the staff report the existing problem is quite simple: “The City of Davis and Davis Waste Removal (DWR) receive numerous complaints from customers citing organized scavenging groups rummaging through their trash and recycling carts, stealing recyclables, and leaving behind a mess.”

“Some scavengers have even ventured onto private property to steal recyclables from customer garages and side yards,” the staff report continues. “This type of activity removes available recycling funds from the City and is not consistent with the intent of the California Redemption Value (CRV) program developed and administered by CalRecycle.”

The problem is that the city is claiming that it “does not include adequate enforcement or penalty clause provisions.”

The city proposes, “Amending the language in the Code in order to facilitate enforcement of the City’s Anti-Scavenging Ordinance will be beneficial for customers as well as the City’s solid waste management efforts.”

The violation would be an infraction and it carries with it the proposed fines: one hundred dollars ($100) for the first violation, two hundred dollars ($200) for the second violation, and five hundred dollars ($500) for the third and subsequent violations occurring within a one-year period.

The city clarifies, “This regulation applies to materials placed inside containers provided by City’s authorized waste and recycling collector. It does not limit the right of any person to donate, sell or otherwise dispose of his or her own recyclable materials.”

In some jurisdictions, these laws have meant that once placed within the receptacle or on the curb, the city would own the waste.  Here, “garbage and other containerized solid wastes shall remain the property of the generator until the material is removed from the container by the city or the city’s authorized waste collector.”

Later the proposed law states, “It is unlawful for anyone other than the city’s authorized collector or a person designated by the Public Works Director to remove or otherwise interfere with recyclable materials which have been placed at the curb or in commercial containers.”

There are of course issues of nuisance caused by scavenging for recyclables or scrap metal, and the interest of course in protecting the city’s recycling funds, but not mentioned or addressed in this staff report is the social cost.

There is no research or analysis of the impact on the homeless population in this community.

In my time covering the courts, one of the biggest rising crime categories is the stealing of recyclable material or scrap metal.  Some of this is fueled by the need for people to support their drug habits.  But some of it is fueled by the economy, the lack of jobs and other avenues for getting small amounts of money for food or non-food items.

An old newspaper clipping from the Associated Press tells of a story from Madison, Wisconsin, where “An impoverished refugee woman’s arrest for scavenging through garbage cans in search of recyclable items has angered advocates for the poor and raised questions about who has the right to turn trash into cash.”

The article quotes the director of a Green Bay homeless shelter who argued, “The right to eat… takes precedence over the city’s right.  I don’t see why the city has to pit itself against the poor…  This is a way for them to eke out a living without panhandling.”

Let me put it this way.  I understand it is nuisance at times for people to scavenge through the garbage.  I understand that there are security and other concerns.

Interestingly enough, the city argues that we do not have adequate laws to deal with it, but uses as an argument that “some scavengers have even ventured onto private property to steal recyclables from customer garages and side yards.”

There is already a law against trespassing.

It would also be helpful to see the city document how big a problem this is.  How many complaints have they received?  Is this simply a nuisance problem that leaves behind a mess?

And can we find better ways to deal with such a problem other than simply creating a law that, once again, seems to legislate against homeless people and the poor during a time where we are still in deep recession?

Sadly, none of these issues were even broached in the staff report and it seems like we should at least discuss them and figure out how big a problem this is, before we make another law increasing the burden on the homeless.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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97 thoughts on “Commentary: Should the City of Davis Pass Anti-Scavenging Ordinance?”

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      It would be enforced by the police. Again, it would be interesting to see what the statistics show in terms of complaints since that would probably translate into calls for service under this ordinance.

    2. Alan Miller

      >Does the City have the staff to enforce this ordinance?

      The city doesn’t have the staff to stop one-tenth of 1% of bikes that blaze through stop signs (and should be yield signs for bikes anyway).

  1. growth issue

    I used to go to work at 4am and one morning a guy had gone through my recyclables and left a mess around my can. I had to stop and clean up the mess as most of it was glass. As I was driving down my street I saw the guy rumaging through another can and I stopped and told him to stay the f out of my can if he was going to leave a mess.

    So David, for every complaint like mine there’s another 100 people that have the same problem but don’t speak up, right?

        1. David Greenwald Post author

          The smoke ordinance is primarily used to ask people to move, I (somewhat facetiously) wonder if anyone has ever been cited under it. This would be different in its implications. You catch a homeless person scavenging, you’re really going to fine them $100? To what reasonable end?

          1. growth issue

            The smoke ordinance has fines too and can require a cop to come out and observe or serve the ticket. I’m sure any scavenger ordinance will also rely on people catching one in the act, and they can complain or let it go if they choose.

  2. SouthofDavis

    David wrote:

    > There is already a law against trespassing.

    The law against trespassing is not enforced against people trespassing to steal from recycle bins (just like the law against stealing is not enforced against people that steal shopping carts from big grocery stores).

    > It would also be helpful to see the city document how big a problem this is.

    Most people probably don’t notice that ground is extra sticky from bottle and can thieves pouring what is left out on the street (since most people don’t power wash the street in front of their house a couple times a year and don’t seem to notice the mess the yard waste makes on the streets of Davis). The problem is not as bad as in SF (where about 90% of the aluminum put in ALL the recycling bins is stolen) but in Davis (where the ground is sticky in front of almost every apartment recycling bin) they are stealing close to 90% of the aluminum (and often stealing just about anything metal that is not bolted down).

    > How many complaints have they received?

    Every apartment owner I know calls multiple times a year (usually when the out of town “teams” in trucks roll in and make a HUGE mess getting as much as they can as fast as they can).

    > Is this simply a nuisance problem that leaves behind a mess?

    It makes a wet and sticky gross mess (and is a bummer when kids lose their bikes so someone can make ~$3 recycling the metal)…

    > And can we find better ways to deal with such a problem other than simply
    > creating a law that once again seems to legislate against homeless people
    > and the poor during a time where we are still in deep recession.

    If the “homeless and poor” were breaking in to homes and stealing iPhones would a law cracking down on this also be “legislating against homeless people and the poor”? Would a law banning late night rap music and beer pong be an example of “legislating against fraternity guys and hard party UCD students”?

  3. SouthofDavis

    growth issue wrote:

    > So David, for every complaint like mine there’s another 100 people
    > that have the same problem but don’t speak up, right?

    GI reminded me that the scavengers also break a lot of glass on the street and most bike riders don’t call to complain “that a guy pulling cans out of a bin dropped a bottle and made me late for work since I had to stop and patch a flat” and pet owners probably don’t call anyone when their dog gets some glass in his paw (and just bring him to the vet)…

    P.S. I know that “most: the glass on the street in town is from drunk college students dropping (or throwing) bottles, but the bottles dropped by the scavengers (and the bottles that fall out of bags when they are riding to the recycling center) are probably the #2 source of glass on the street…

  4. iPad Guy

    While going out to my car about 9 p.m. more than a year ago, I saw an elderly guy pulling the cans from our container on the street. Taken aback, I just said “hello” and got a heavily accented response.

    Ever since, we’ve put our deposit-cans in a couple of the now outlawed single-use shopping bags and placed them at the top of the container side of our recycle can. We can pretty well depend that they will be gone before DWR shows up the next morning.

    I admired the entrepreneurial spirit involved. Moreover, I long since had discontinued transporting cans to DWR because the monthly drive wasn’t worth the pittance DWR paid after weighing the cans.

    One traveling to Oregon notices that customers returning cans and bottles to stores receive the full deposits they make when purchasing the drinks. As a result, most streets, roads and other public areas either aren’t can targets or are cleaned up shortly after they’re littered.

    How does the system work here? I suspected DWR pockets the majority of the deposit money rather than giving it to the customers who delivers their cans. What about the deposit bottles involved? Obviously, customers get nothing for the cans and bottles we put in the DWR cans.

    Your article suggests the city somehow benefits from the way things are set up now. How?

    I suspect the “problems” are overstated. To what end? In nearly two years, I’ve never seen the can collector ever “leaving a mess” anywhere on our street. I’ve never seen evidence of theft and trespassing, but (as you note) we don’t need more laws to deal with those problems.

    What happens to the common practice of placing items at the curb with a “free” sign, hoping they’ll disappear to a needy person before we have to trash them? What enforcement will be needed in order for a new ordinance to have even the slightest impact?

    To what “customers” does the staff report refer when it claims “…(new law) will be beneficial for customers as well as the City’s solid waste management efforts”? And, how can the act of recycling cans be be seen as hampering the city solid waste management efforts or subverting the intent of the state’s CVR program?

    Whenever I see the phrase “numerous” used to describe a problem (with no numbers provided), I’m skeptical. I also wonder about the evidence for “organized scavenging groups” being responsible–sounds as though marauding hordes have hit our fair city.

    Exactly what problems are driving this initiative beyond DWR’s realization that some poor folks are slightly affecting their profit from not returning deposits to those of us who’ve paid them?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      I think overall you make a lot of great points.

      I’ll address this: “Your article suggests the city somehow benefits from the way things are set up now. How?”

      I’d have to look up a few things, but the city gets the recycling revenue right now. That was my only point.

    2. David Greenwald Post author

      ” What enforcement will be needed in order for a new ordinance to have even the slightest impact?”

      And the city is going to fine an indigent person $100? And what happens when they can’t afford to pay it? Do they go to jail?

      1. wdf1x

        That creates a certain kind of ironic, no-lose incentive. Go ahead and scavenge for whatever you need to survive, and if you get caught, then you at least you get food and shelter, particularly valuable in the winter time.

    3. growth issue

      “Your article suggests the city somehow benefits from the way things are set up now. How?”

      I’m sure there are big profits in recyclables for DWR. I would think this helps keep our monthly garbage collection bills a little smaller than they would be otherwise.

    4. iPad Guy

      When I started writing, there were no comments. Now, I see that this practice could, indeed, be generating “numerous complaints” (times 100, of course).

      Okay, but I’m left to wonder why the guy with the franchise on our street never has left any broken glass while it sounds so common in your neighborhoods. And, I never thought of the massive impact that a teaspoon of discarded Coke remains (times 100, of course) could have on a city street.

      Will there be a single bad or inconvenient thing happening in Davis once we get all of our ordinances in place and staff up our police department to enforce them?

    1. growth issue

      You mean like the smoke ordinance where we found out it came down to only 8 complainers? Somehow only 8 complainers was deemed enough to make a new law.

      1. Frankly

        It is the eight people complaining teaming with the 20% of the population that can’t stop obsessing about controlling the lives of others. The two of them create a toxic stew of political power.

        1. growth issue

          Fully agree Frankly. To be honest I could care less if someone is taking my bottles and cans as long as he leaves the area clean. I was just trying to show some of the hypocrisy of what laws the zealots try and push because it fits their political agenda and what laws are no good because it hurts the poor or doesn’t fit the agenda. Also, only 8 were complaining about smoke, but David always says you must multiply complaints by 100, so the same must go here too.

          1. David Greenwald Post author

            “David always says you must multiply complaints by 100, so the same must go here too.”

            I agree that the problem will always extend deeper than the numbers who complain. Again that wasn’t the question I was responding to.

          2. Michelle Millet

            “To be honest I could care less if someone is taking my bottles and cans as long as he leaves the area clean.”

            Part of the problem is that the recycling program pays for itself, if scavengers get too efficient this will not longer be the case.

          3. growth issue

            Excellent point, one I had basically made earlier (read above). I’m sure the recyclable tonnage figures into our city’s DWR contract and that the pilferage could have an affect on our bills. Thank you for backing my point.

      2. Matt Williams

        I understand your point G.I., only 8 complainers seems like too small an amount to justify an ordinance that affects everyone in the City. Here are my thoughts on why the number of complainers is not a meaningful proxy for the size of the problem in this case. Specifically, during my five years working at UCD Medical Center and my 25 additional years working in hospitals in close to 30 states in the US, I’ve worked side-by-side with pulmonary specialists treating patients afflicted with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and two patterns became evident to me.

        First, COPD makes breathing when stressed very difficult, so the patients have developed a life style behavior pattern that seeks to minimize stress. I think you and I and most others would agree that filing a formal complaint with the City is in fact a stressful activity. So it is no surprise that COPD sufferers have filed very few, if any, wood smoke complaints.

        Second, it is not unreasonable to say that the majority of COPD sufferers are elderly, and that their mobility is impaired, and sometimes a lot more than their mobility. Those restrictions frequently force them to limit their activities, and as a result, the activity of going to the appropriate City installation in order to file a complaint falls into the “restricted activities” list.

        So I think the number 8 is meaningless in this situation,

  5. Ryan Kelly

    The problem in my neighborhood is the noise made by scavengers in the middle of the night. It wakes me up and then keeps me awake listening the the person clink through the recycling to select what they are looking for. I’m not the only one who is disturbed, because when it happens one of my neighbors invariably calls the police. We’ve tried collecting the cans over months and then delivering them to DWR ourselves. Slim pickings is resulting in fewer visits by scavengers.

    It is interesting, but the scavengers that come by during daylight hours are more tolerable. They seem to be “not good at this” and visibly in need. They come once or twice and then we never see them again.

      1. Ryan Kelly

        We could leave them in a bag, separately. But if they don’t come, then the bag is left behind when DWR comes to collect and we have trash in the street.

        What I understand is that DWR expects some benefit from picking up recycling and this income stream is disturbed by gleaning. My monthly trash collection cost is already high (2X that of my cost for water, BTW) and I wonder if we could be paying less if scavengers were not stealing from our cans.

        1. iPad Guy

          No need to leave “donations” anywhere but inside the “container” section of the recycle container (on the top of the other stuff). If they’re not taken, then DWR gets them.

          Maybe we’re be saving DWR money; they don’t have to separate out the deposit cans from all the rest of the cans and plastic, etc. How much do you really think DWR returns to customers in exchange for us giving them our deposit cans free?

          1. Michelle Millet

            “How much do you really think DWR returns to customers in exchange for us giving them our deposit cans free?”

            I don’t know if we get money back, but the revenue DWR gets from recycling material at least covers the cost of the service, so we don’t pay for it.

  6. hpierce

    David… what you call provisions of the new ordinance, ex. the ownership of wastes, is actually in the EXISTING City Code (32.01.060). I have encountered two (numerous?) individuals who were rummaging thru my recyclables. One was riding a bike, surly when I challenged him, and he left a mess on the street. As I followed him onto the greenbelt, it was pretty obvious he was “impaired”. Could it be that not enforcing our current codes be a form of “enabling”?

    1. David Greenwald Post author

      “what you call provisions of the new ordinance, ex. the ownership of wastes, is actually in the EXISTING City Code (32.01.060).”

      In the staff report, it was red indicating new provisions within the existing ordinance, no?

      “Could it be that not enforcing our current codes be a form of “enabling”?”

      But what is the ordinance going to do? Is that guy going to be able to pay $100 fine? Is that really helpful?

      1. hpierce

        I saw no “red” when I viewed the document. I quite possibly mis-read your article which I thought meant you were saying ‘ownership by the generator’ was new. I actually agree that the existing ordinance doesn’t need to be amended.

        I reserve the right to confront those who are violating the current ordinances. Call it an educational effort.

        Perhaps we should open the doors to encouraging the ‘theft’ of the recyclable materials for high school/college students in the spirit of entrepenurial equity.

  7. SouthofDavis

    Ryan wrote:

    > The problem in my neighborhood is the noise made by scavengers in the
    > middle of the night. I’m not the only one who is disturbed, because when
    > it happens one of my neighbors invariably calls the police.

    Using Davis’s 100:1 multiple for you and your neighbor we have another 200 people bothered by this…

    > It is interesting, but the scavengers that come by during daylight hours are
    > more tolerable. They seem to be “not good at this” and visibly in need.
    > They come once or twice and then we never see them again.

    Most of the old guys that poke around during daylight hours are usually not homeless and are just poor retired guys trying to kill time and make a few extra bucks (I’ve talked to them and at times given them a few extra bucks). It is the guys that come at night (that are often tweekers and are not “just” looking for cans) that we need to worry about…

  8. Mr. Toad

    Why make it harder for poor people. I guess because we can. Doesn’t the Davis CC have anything better to do than regulate who has to put stuff into cans and take stuff out of cans. This is absurd.

    Since the CC just raised our rates for trash collection DWR must have already figured in what scavengers are costing them and us. Any windfall from reduced scavenging is gravy on top of charging people extra for unused garbage can capacity in the hope that they will recycle more than they already recycle.

    Or perhaps this is an attempt to balance the budget on the backs of the poorest with $100 and $200 dollar fines for people trying to earn a few extra nickels.

    Its all just shameful. Makes me wonder why anyone would want to serve on the city council.

    1. darelldd

      “Why make it harder for poor people. I guess because we can”

      Errr… Do you lock your house or bike or car? Not everybody is in a conspiracy to make things harder on the poor. Sometimes we have other goals in mind.

      As Robb says below, I’d like to hear the real harms of scavenging before coming to any sort of conclusion. But what I understand is that DWR receives some compensation for my recyclables that offsets some of my waste pickup bill. If it costs me more to dispose of things because of scavenging, then there is (financial) harm being done, I guess. Just like if somebody were to “scavenge” my bicycle from the front yard, or my laptop from my office.

      1. Mr. Toad

        Like I said DWR already figured this in when they got new rates approved. Its already in your bill. The question now becomes when can we expect lower rates should the council impose this and it actually reduces theft of nickels by poor people.

      2. Mr. Toad

        Actually stealing things with large value is addressed differently under the law. Its called grand theft and taking things from your office is burglary. They are quite different and should be.. Perhaps you could put this in the charity starts at home category.

        1. darelldd

          My guess and hope is that we can come up with more effective ways of helping the needy than by laundering our donations through our recycle bins. Is that really how anybody wishes to donate? By requiring the needy to paw through our garbage late at night? Mr. Toad mentioned “shameful” and I can’t think of a better definition for the word: Charity through trash scavenging.

          If we collectively decide that this is the best way to help the needy, then I’d like to be aware of that right up front when I pay the CRV at the grocery store. And then we can set out more convenient containers on the street and leave the driveway lights on.

          Nowhere here am I condoning a new law against scavenging. I guess I’m just pointing out that there is more than one way to look at this. It is an odd situation situation for sure.

        2. darelldd

          “Actually stealing things with large value is addressed differently under the law. Its called grand theft and taking things from your office is burglary.”

          Well, so I leave my favorite, relatively low-cost hand tool out on the front porch. I don’t particularly want to “donate” that to the needy even if I’m willing to write a check for 10x its worth to a charity of my choice. And just because I don’t want what’s mine to be taken, doesn’t mean I’m anti-poor people, of course.

          I guess I should have written my initial comment a bit better: Those of us who lock our doors aren’t not against helping the needy. At the same time, we clearly aren’t trying to keep the rich folks out, are we?

          The issue is a bit more complicated than some of the assumptions (and accusations) being made.

      3. Michelle Millet

        “If it costs me more to dispose of things because of scavenging, then there is (financial) harm being done, I guess.:

        I believe the “professional scavengers” do take a significant enough amount that it effects DWR’s revenue stream. I don’t think this is true for individual scavengers.

  9. Robb Davis

    Laws have a sense when there is a clear “harm” to an individual or community because of the act. Besides some nuisance issues named here and vague references to lost revenue to DWR I am unclear of the true harm caused by this practice. Further, there clearly is a market for those “scavenging” to sell the things they collect. Anderson Plaza has a recycling drop off location where people get paid. I think I saw one at the shopping center in South Davis as well. I doubt, though I may be wrong, that the property owners of these properties are allowing the collection points to sit on their properties for free.

    More importantly than all of this to me is the question of what is driving people to do this form of work? We are left with hypotheses: extreme poverty, addictions, investment cash… In fact, I know several people who collect cans and bottles and, over time, I have seen all of these as reasons why people do this work. Yes, there are some entrepreneurs out there using income from this work to fund small start ups in this town. Yes, there are some who collect to get just enough for that high alcohol content malt liquor or that daily fix of meth. Yes, there are some who are making ends meet for groceries or rent. As a community we should be a bit more inquisitive about the factors that drive this action and less quick to simply try to ban it.

    Criminalizing it will lead to more people with fines they cannot pay… This at a time when the Yolo County Probation Department is seeking to develop community advisory panels to assist those with “technical” probation violations. A not uncommon “technical” violation is the inability to pay fines on time due to difficult financial situations.

    Bottom line for me: unless City Staff can show the very specific harms done by “scavenging” I think we should leave people to it. Further, if we want to take actions to prevent it then let’s talk about things like starting a small (very small) business start-up fund for people who want to start small cleaning or other businesses, figuring out how to help people who have just seen their SNAP benefits reduced (with more to come) and dealing with the gnawing problem of ZERO publicly funded drug and alcohol rehab programs in our county.

    1. SouthofDavis

      Mr. Toad wrote:

      > Why make it harder for poor people…

      Then Robb wrote:

      > I am unclear of the true harm caused by this practice…

      If Toad & Robb want to make it easier for the homeless to steal cans from DWR, why make them go from house to house when we can just let them steal them from a big bin at DWR on 2nd Street?

      Stealing cans a homeowner puts in a bin to go to DWR is the same as stealing outgoing mail a homeowner puts in mail box (except the postmaster general does not care about the stealing of cans).

        1. darelldd

          I’m not sure I”m following the point of your comment.

          Does this mean you’re OK with the postal law because it is “different” and a “federal crime?”

          If stealing recyclables were similarly different and a federal offense, would you then be OK with a law to curtain the theft of recyclables?

          1. Mr. Toad

            Really, you don’t understand the difference between taking an aluminum can from a recycle bin and stealing peoples mail?

    2. Michelle Millet

      “Bottom line for me: unless City Staff can show the very specific harms done by “scavenging” I think we should leave people to it”

      The specific harm I see is if a significant amount of litter is being created. The Integrated Waste Management Plan claims that complaints have been made about scavenger making “a mess”. But, unless I missed something, which is possible, (that report is long) they don’t go into much more detail then that. So I don’t know how wide spread or significant a problem this actually is.

    3. chris

      “Bottom line for me: unless City Staff can show the very specific harms done by “scavenging” I think we should leave people to it”

      If someone were to go through your trash and found an unaccepted credit card offer or some bank checks would you feel violated?? The bottles and cans is not the issue. Stealing your identity through your garbage is what it is all about.

      1. growth issue

        Great point Chris. Is that poor homeless guy just going for your bottles and cans or is he looking at the other side of that recyclable container and also going through your mail and papers? If it is deemed okay and not illegal by the city for that scavenger to be in your garbage is he going to feel that he has the right to be there.

      1. Biddlin

        I don’t see much enthusiasm for job creation among Davisites. Seems like no one wants to develop anything but envy on the available parcels over there.

  10. Michelle Millet

    I think part of the problem is professional scavengers. I read about this in some report, I think the Waste Management plan. Apparently people are coming in from out of town and filling pick-up trucks with recycling material. I recall reading that is one of the actives this law is aimed at stopping.

    When I get a chance I’ll try and track down more info on this.

    1. Mr. Toad

      Now if you want to do something about large scale theft perhaps you are on to something but going after the people I see hitting the recycling cans on my street is cruel and dumb.

    2. Frankly

      Hmm… well a professional by definition is a person with master skills doing some task. So, if someone works for years stealing recycling from residents, does he eventually become a professional recycling stealer? I think so.

  11. Just me

    I have had scavengers in my garbage cans… They have never came back because they found nothing of use to them in my cans… I keep my recyclable cans and bottles and recycle them myself.. Every couple of months take bags to the recycle place and have walked away with in excess of $200.00. If you do not want scavengers to take these moeny making items from your cans.o not put them in there… Simple as that!

    1. Michelle Millet

      An even better way, limit the consumption of products that come in single-use packaging (especially plastic, which doesn’t really recycle well anyway).

  12. SouthofDavis

    iPad Guy wrote:

    > Whenever I see the phrase “numerous” used to describe a problem
    > (with no numbers provided), I’m skeptical.

    Then Robb wrote:

    > Yes, there are some entrepreneurs out there using income from this
    > work to fund small start ups in this town.

    I’m also skeptical when I read that “some” entrepreneurs are digging through recycle bins for “start up funding”.

    I’m wondering if Robb will let us know the names of just “some” of the Davis business that got their start using money from recycled cans and bottles…

        1. Jim Frame

          “I’m pretty sure Davis Waste did not fund the first fleet of trucks in the 1970′s when they got the franchise after years of collecting cans…”

          Maybe not, but they were instrumental in getting the recycling program going. It was begun by a small non-profit (I’ve forgotten the name, but it was long and unwieldy), and DWR’s principals provided a lot of assistance.

          One of my first jobs in Davis (1973 or so) was smashing aluminum cans with a sod tamper at the recycling center where Aggie Village is now. For hours and hours on end…

          1. hpierce

            What Jim says… the two Pauls (Hart and Geisler) were running the recycling where Aggie Village is now (next to the then Greyhound Depot) at least by 1973.

    1. Robb Davis

      SouthofDavis – I doubt my answer is going to satisfy you because I am going to have to be vague. I work with a local agency that provides transitional housing and confidentiality concerns keep me from giving you details but over the course of 4-5 months about a year and half ago, 3 people were collecting cans to purchase supplies and equipment as they sought to start up a small service company in Davis. This was not their only source of income (they also worked odd jobs) but they were aggressive in collecting cans and bottles and even had a relationship with several businesses who simply gave them the bottles. Nonetheless they also scavenged. This lasted until the business itself generated the income. I am aware of another person doing something similar (and it may still continue) to fund a business related to reselling items.

      So, I am not making this up but it gets back to the point I was trying to make: this type of work is hard-especially without a car, it is dirty and people do face the ire of residents for doing it. I am merely saying that before we decide to criminalize it we should ask what drives people to do it. That implies understanding the kinds of economic and other challenges people in our town face. Alternatives may not be as ubiquitous as some think. Just one example: felons who get out of prison have a particularly hard time finding work (and housing). I am aware of 3 off the top of my head (notice I did not say “some”) who have been reduced to couch surfing or living outside and working under the table at odd jobs to survive. Add in addiction which is often a form of self-medication for depression and you have a mix that keeps people in precarious economic situations for a long period and they drift in and out towns, jobs and housing. Among the scavengers are ones such as these.

      I am aware also of “organized” savaging–see it in my neighborhood all the time but am not sure how widespread it is or, again, what harm it causes to us as a city. The end we seek with recycling programs is… recycling. All of these groups help us achieve that end.

        1. Robb Davis

          GI – I did ask what the harms are. Maybe I missed it, but in the staff report I did not see the financial loss to the city. I see that there have been complaints about scavengers (leaving a mess for example) but I think there are other ways of dealing with that–one is what I have done in my housing co-op which is to talk to scavengers and tell them to clean up their mess or we will make it hard for them to continue. Beyond that, the main question I am asking is what criminalizing and fining people achieves–especially given the precarious position some of them clearly are in. I just think we should consider that.

          I have seen your posts on this and I see where you are coming from. I am just trying to think of the other side of the equation.

          1. growth issue

            Robb, on the other end if a message is sent out that scavenging will not be illegal might that not open a can of worms as those doing it will know they now have free going?

          2. Robb Davis

            Not sure I can answer that. I feel like right now people realize it is a kind of gray area–not respectable even if not illegal. What kind of message inaction sends is not clear to me.

            But let me step back and say that across the city it is clear that there are lots of individuals and groups engaged in scavenging. I am not claiming to know who they all are nor the level at which it is an “organized” activity. I simply do not know. I DO know that some of the folks doing it are as I have described and I have some understanding what drives them to it. In fact, the more I reflect on this the more I realize I know quite a few people who scavenge (some dumpster dive too). These are folks on the edge and for a fair number it is not a daily activity but a periodic one. I see it as a symbol of some of the social challenges we face as a city and wish we could talk about root causes and solutions. I know it is not easy but I would prefer a conversation about that.

          3. Michelle Millet

            Criminalizing it we mostly likely not stop the behavior, or any of the problems that go along with it. So it does not seem the best way to address the issue.

        2. Tia Will

          GI

          If DWR perceives that it is seeing a decrease in its proceeds from this activity, then perhaps they could provide the actual numbers on the amount of their loss so that an objective decision could be made about the over all effects.

          I would not be in favor of criminalizing an activity unless there is objective data showing that doing so presents an overall favorable outcome for the city, either economic or social. I have yet to see proof that this is the case at least from the discussion here.

          1. Mr. Toad

            They recently were granted new rates by the City. Obviously they already figured this in. The question should be does this result in more profit for DWR or reduced rates for the residents.

      1. David Greenwald Post author

        ” The end we seek with recycling programs is… recycling. ”

        And I think one of the things I want to look more into is that the end of DWR is profit, not recycling.

      2. SouthofDavis

        Thanks for the reply, as a guy that saved and recycled cans for most of my life I know for a fact that there is no way you can start a business if digging through trash cans for items to recycle as your only income source.

        Rather than writing “entrepreneurs are digging through recycle bins for start up funding” I would have would have written that “like most poor people some of the guys I work with have made a few extra dollars collecting cans”.

        I’m sure that Bill Gates and Paul Allen ended up with quite a few empty Mountain Dew cans (and probably recycled them) in the early days of Microsoft, but I would not say they got their “start up funding” from the cans.

        About the time Jim was “smashing aluminum cans with a sod tamper at the recycling center where Aggie Village is now” I was smashing aluminum cans with an eight pound sledge hammer (it was a long night after we came home from a day at the park or the beach).

        I did a quick Google search for the price of aluminum per pound in the early 70’s but couldn’t find it. I seem to remember it was around $0.10/pound (good money for a kid that made $0.60/hour or a “penny a minute” doing yard work).

        About 10 years ago I did the math on the time to sort the cans, smash the cans, clean up the garage after smashing the cans (so I don’t stick to the floor) and drive to the recycle center with my flip top 12 gallon tubs of smashed cans and I was not making any money so now I just put them in the blue bin (for DWR or the scavengers)…

        1. growth issue

          Totally agree SOD. When I first retired I decided to recycle to see what it was worth. After about 4 months of collecting cans, plastic and bottles I took them to the Safeway recycling station, stood in line for about 20 minutes and got a whole $17 for my troubles. I had a fair amount of stuff, I was surprised I received so little. Maybe the guy ripped me off.

          1. Mr. Toad

            Exactly, the people who are doing this are pretty well down on their luck. Its time consuming and pays little. Is it bothersome? Of course. Are they stealing from the public weal? Yes. Is it something we should get worked up about and criminalize? No. Leave these people alone about this. They obviously are having a hard enough time without us making things worse.

  13. SouthofDavis

    Justme wrote:

    > Every couple of months take bags to the recycle place
    > and have walked away with in excess of $200.00.

    To get $200 in a couple months you would need to drink (and recycle) MORE than two CASES of soda or beer a day (more than two cans an hour 24 hours a day)…

    1. Justme

      And your point is?? My point was not to argue over logistics or how much one drinks per day…. My point is why give the profit to the scavenger or garbage man…… I am guessing the garbage man goes through and sells the recyclables to recycle plants too… That is money I can have in my pocket rather than theirs…. A half an hour every couple or even FEW months is well worth it to me….. I have bags in my shed and when they get to a good amount, I take them in…. Money in my pocket!

  14. Michelle Millet

    Another suggestion made in the waste management plan is for people to wait until morning to put out the recycling bins. (probably not a feasible option in our house given how hectic our mornings already are…)

  15. B. Nice

    From Waste Management Plan:

    “Scavenging is not just a matter of a few homeless people looking to make a bit of money. It’s becoming an
    organized black-market recycling system. The City has received calls about people in flatbed trucks stealing recyclables from the curb and from side yards. ”

    “Scavengers are not only stealing from DWR, they’re stealing from the residents and business owners of Davis
    because the revenue generated from the sale of recyclables goes directly back to the rate payers in the form of
    lower service rates. Recycling service is provided at no extra cost to Davis ratepayers because the revenue from the recyclables subsidizes the cost for the collection. When scavengers steal the recycling, they remove that
    revenue and cut the funding to the recycling program. “

  16. SouthofDavis

    Michelle wrote:

    > I think part of the problem is professional scavengers.

    Not many people care about the old guys or homeless that pull out a few cans to buy a 40oz. bottle of malt liquor…

    Most of the problems are caused by the guys with cars and trucks (often hopped up on meth) that are stealing truckloads of material that includes kids unlocked bikes and copper wire in the parks.

    As of August of last year “the Davis Police Department has taken 11 reports of copper wire theft or attempted theft. These crimes typically occur on the greenbelts or near public parks. The thieves most consistently target city light poles, but city facilities have also been targeted in the past. “

  17. Michelle Millet

    Looking over the staff report it’s unclear who this ordinance is targeting. I’m not sure this ordinance would effect the behavior of lone scavengers although it will criminalize their action, which I’m not convinced is the best way to handle this situation. It may discouraged more organized groups though, which I think would be a positive result.

    1. Biddlin

      “Most of the problems are caused by the guys with cars and trucks (often hopped up on meth) that are stealing truckloads of material that includes kids unlocked bikes and copper wire in the parks.

      As of August of last year ‘the Davis Police Department has taken 11 reports of copper wire theft or attempted theft. These crimes typically occur on the greenbelts or near public parks. The thieves most consistently target city light poles, but city facilities have also been targeted in the past. ‘”

      Anyone looking at the collection centers who accept and buy this material ? I see very few recycle centers being fined or closed for accepting stolen property, but I guess that they might be represented by lawyers and are tougher to prosecuted than Homeless Harry.
      “Looking over the staff report it’s unclear who this ordinance is targeting. I’m not sure this ordinance would effect the behavior of lone scavengers although it will criminalize their action, which I’m not convinced is the best way to handle this situation. It may discouraged more organized groups though, which I think would be a positive result.”
      I don’t point the shotgun, if I don’t know who’s in the line of fire. Cops usually pick the easiest targets first.
      Biddlin ;>)/

      1. SouthofDavis

        Biddin wrote:

        > Anyone looking at the collection centers who accept and buy this
        > material ? I see very few recycle centers being fined or closed for
        > accepting stolen property,

        There have been some fined and closed (and it is getting harder to recycle stolen metal with more centers taking fingerprints and mailing checks) but many of the guys running the centers are bigger crooks than the guys stealing the metal.

        It is tempting for many centers to pay a guy who wants money for drugs $100 for $1,000 worth of stolen brass and copper knowing that once it is melted down no one will know where it came from…

  18. Nina Bartholomew

    Hey, can I get some punishment meted out to those many homeowners who think the street is a public dumpster for their yard waste, leaves, branches and clippings etc? Maybe parking tickets would be a good idea. They are using up street parking space and creating driving hazards and litter. Oh, of course not! They are not poor people so they can litter the streets and prevent people from parking.

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