Economy

Raiders of the Not-So-Lost Recycling Bin

You know the economy is getting bad when there are fights over trash.

This story caught my eye.

On Sunday evening near Glen Park's busy main drag, Diamond Street, several groups trolled the streets collecting bottles and cans. In one instance, a man drove a red, graffiti-covered truck while two men walked on opposite sidewalks, gathering bottles and cans from blue bins set out for the next morning's official pickup, and dumped them into the truck.

Though the men didn't knock over the bins or leave other trash in their wake, some San Francisco residents say they know when the recycling bandits are on the march when they see tipped-over cans and litter strewn on the ground and hear clanks of bottles and cans at 3 a.m. One waste company says it has received 20,000 complaints of curbside recycling theft in San Francisco.

Jo Cangelosi's home office sits at the front of her Potrero Hill house with a view of Mississippi Street. The recycling squads have gotten so bad that she puts her recycling out at the very last minute - when she can hear the regular truck rumbling down the road. [full story]

It seems organized crews have been going out into the pre-dawn light to raid San Francisco residents' recycling bins. They then sell the glass, plastic and aluminum to recycling centers. The regular garbage collectors say the crews can be hostile and dangerous. Residents have filed thousands of complaints.

I see people picking through my recycling bins all the time. I never thought it was a problem. Little did I know that recycling theft is illegal, and that the city is losing lots of money to these scavengers.

But, if I have to choose, I'll side with the scavengers. It's obvious the people picking through the garbage need that money. Badly. As one man quoted in the story says, "I work in construction, but now it's only five or six hours a day...I do the bottles now because it's difficult, there's not much work. And gas is very, very expensive."

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