Jan 21, 2006

Recycling And Opportunism

Left: unidentified entrepreneur raiding the county recycling bins; photo by historymike

(Toledo, OH) I originally thought I would post a short missive on the importance of recycling; I planned to take a few photos of Lucas County recycling bins at the Secor/Monroe Kroger location.

A rustling in one of the dumpsters, however, confirmed that the West Toledo Recyclable Bandit was hard at work.

I have seen him in and around the bins several times; I am not sure if he is collecting metal containers for scrap metal, or if he is driving across the border into Michigan to redeem containers for the $.05 and $.10 deposit (Ohio is not a deposit state).

Left: A sampling of the income potential in county bins

As a person who generally adheres to the principle of "live and let live," it does not cause me much chagrin to see this man gleaning a few dollars from the refuse of other people.

That being said, this represents some income loss for the county, and ostensibly my taxes underwrite this man's extra-legal behavior.

What do you think? Should people like the Recycling Bandit be viewed as criminals, entrepreneurs, or in a larger sense, evidence that there is an underground economy fueled by people who struggle to succeed in mainstream America?


Anonymous said...

I'm laughing too hard to post a thought, Mike. The guy's expression is priceless!


historymike said...

Well, I wasn't trying to end up with a particular shot, Petrograde.

He does look a little bit like a gopher peeking out to see if the coast is clear, though.

M A F said...

At first glance, I'd say that removal of recyclable materials from a clearly defined container as depicted is a crime. Of course, I'd be more lenient if the city collecting said material and did not recycle (which has happened).

Most of the recyclers I have seen are the homeless who mine garbage bins for the aluminum and plastic containers. They are homeless entrepreneurs who are, as you wrote "fueling an underground economy."

Stephanie said...

I think, if he were that hard up for cash, the trip across the border wouldn't be a very cost-effective one, but who knows how much he gleans from those bins.

As for a criminal vs. entrepreneurial...
It makes me think of the earlier post you made...he very well may have a right to be there, collecting the "waste" of others for his own benefit and that of others. However, if this is a revenue source your local government is simply letting pass-by, than by all means raise the out-rage.

Hooda Thunkit said...


As I recall most municipalities that have recycling programs have laws on the books to cover this.

Any items put out for recycling belong to those gubments at the moment the goods hit the curb or recycling drop off point; it, in effect, becomes their property.

Accordingly, taking any of it is theft and carries the appropriate penalties.

I did notice the absence of observable aluminum cans in the dumpster...

Besides the theft of city/count assets, dumpster diving is usually frowned upon by those that have to clean up the messes that dumpster diving and dumpster divers are known to cause.

On my few visits to one of our local recyclers I did see lots of entrepreneurs busily participating in the underground economy. From what I noticed, the recyclers now have to record some form of ID for each transaction, whether it be a driver's license, a vehicle license number or a S.S. number, so maybe some of the profits/income is being tracked.

Rather than illegally diving though, some of the larger players bar hop, cleaning up and removing the cans from consenting private owners, minimizing their refuse removal costs for them and providing a valuable service.

Also, somewhere amongst the laws on the books in our wonderful country are usually found whistleblower protection laws, including (usually) rewards or finders fees for helping the gubment uncover the wrong doers and wrongdoing. These are usually based on the amounts of money involved, including, in some cases, fines and punitive damages.

So, you may wish to revisit your past, in the interests of righting a long overlooked wrong, and to soothe your uh…, conscience ;-)

Whew! I feel better now; I really don't know where all of that all came form, but I'm glad it's out :-)

historymike said...

I'll have to give that some thought, Hooda. It does tug at my conscience now and then.

The difficulty would be in the reduced likelihood that paper evidence still remains. The general rule is 7 years on many documents (the scam involved non-reporting of revenue that would be subject to a royalty). My participation involved telling the auditors a "little white lie" from the operations side while the accountants actually cooked the books.

Anonymous said...

I got hear after doing a google search for "stealing recyclables."

Police routinely go through trash without warrants and it's been tried in the the courts who determined if the trash has been discarded and is on public property, it belongs to the public.

However, the difference in your case is that signs are clearly located on the bins that show ownership. Also, if you're municipality has a law against scavenging, you can use it to nab the guys but I'm sure cops have better thing to do.