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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Scavenging - and theft of recyclables - on rise

Less than five minutes into Lisa Poston's shift, the San Diego code-enforcement officer spotted a scraggly man on a bicycle that had been modified to carry garbage cans.

Poston pulled her unmarked car next to him and politely explained that he was breaking the law by taking items from curbside recycling bins. The man, who refused to give his name, wheeled away as Poston warned that she would issue him a ticket the next time.Less than five minutes into Lisa Poston's shift, the San Diego code-enforcement officer spotted a scraggly man on a bicycle that had been modified to carry garbage cans.

Poston pulled her unmarked car next to him and politely explained that he was breaking the law by taking items from curbside recycling bins. The man, who refused to give his name, wheeled away as Poston warned that she would issue him a ticket the next time.

“It's getting worse throughout the city,” Poston said.

Actually, scavenging seems to be worsening across the county and nation. Complaints from residents and reports from officials in the waste industry suggest the practice is on the rise.

The trend is difficult to quantify, because most stolen recyclables are brought to scrap yards and recycling businesses that pay cash and don't ask for personal identification.

Recycling experts said a weak economy and sky-high prices for scrap metal have turned curbside containers into gold mines for everyone from the homeless to quasi-professional thieves, who sweep through neighborhoods with crews and large vehicles. [Mark Godsey]

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