My recycling container has disappeared again
My recycling container has disappeared again. It’s only the second time in nine years and, frankly, I’m surprised it hasn’t happened more often. But it’s still annoying. This isn’t helped by the fact that the last time I needed to get a new container, the City couldn’t seem to figure out that I lived on a street corner and needed the new container where my driveway is (and where the other containers are) and not halfway up the front path on the way to the front door. It took three attempts to get a broken container replaced for the same reason.
I haven’t even requested a new one this time. I live about a block and a half from a commercial recycling center and this neighborhood is ground zero for scavenging. There’s essentially no point attempting to separate items as scavengers go through the containers and transfer content from one to the other while looking for cans and bottles. They come into the driveway to do it and, if you were disciplined enough to keep the driveway gate closed and locked, they would simply do the same thing on the street on pickup day. Almost every time I open a container to add anything, the contents have obviously been torn apart or otherwise disturbed.
All of the scavengers need something to carry their cans and bottles in, with some just using bags. But this is also a neighborhood where shopping carts are commonplace, despite having no nearby stores that use them, and wheeled containers also go missing. For some reason, the unattractive sidewalk adjacent to my even less attractive front yard has become a haven for loitering: People sit there for eight or more hours on some days – except, of course, for beer runs to the nearby corner store. A couple of days ago, one of the loiterers had a Target cart with him despite the nearest Target store being three miles away. Abandoned carts are commonplace, although they’re also reclaimed, presumably by new users, quite quickly.
So I was surprised and disappointed recently to notice a sign inside the yard of the recycling center. I drive by it every day but rarely look inside, so I have no idea how long it has been there. Paraphrasing, it warns customers that if they abandon shopping carts near the premises, they will be refused service on future visits. Aside from the fact that it seems fair to assume that the operators aren’t keeping some logbook of who shows up with what kind of cart on any given day, let’s ponder the implication of the sign for a moment.
The sign is informing people that it’s perfectly OK to bring cans and bottles to sell in stolen shopping carts, as long as one doesn’t abandon those carts so close to the recycling center that the stolen carts might be associated with the business or, perhaps, clutter the premises or entrance. It doesn’t in any way discourage the theft and abandonment of shopping carts. If anything, it encourages theft by enabling the user of the stolen cart to gain from that illegal use, while attempting to distance the owners/operators from the practice.
Picture instead a sign that might read "Customers will be refused service if they bring cans and bottles in a shopping cart or a City container unless they can prove ownership" – or words to that effect.
Why would the penalty be levied on the subsequent visit if the behavior is considered undesirable or recognized to be illegal? Because the recycling center is interested in profit and not in protecting the property and profits of others, despite how simple it would be.
My suggestion for the City Council is to consider a fairly simple new rule: Prohibit recycling centers from doing business with any customer who uses a stolen cart or container of any kind. Carts and containers are stolen for their utility, not for their aesthetics. If you diminish that utility, they won’t be stolen as much. And, presumably, the City loses money on replacement containers – so apply any fines to the replacement fund. Make the fine sufficient to buy, say, five new containers on the assumption that four out of five thefts will go unnoticed (or pick a higher number if I’m grossly underestimating).
But, at the least, let’s not grant business licenses to companies that encourage and reward theft, including from the City, even while attempting to distance themselves from the activity.