Wednesday Dec 12, 2007

Who Owns My Trash

Wednesday is garbage day in my neighbourhood and I duly put out my trash, compostables and recycling before my weekly 7am conference call.

This morning two of my neighbours were having an argument outside of my house around 9am. They were squabbling as to who had a better claim on my recycling. The local "crazy old lady" (and this is Berkeley so that's a title of distinction) voiced the opinion that the cans and bottles were rightly hers because she lived on the same block. The other neighbour went with the "but I was here first" defence. I personally would prefer if neither of them took the material.

Berkeley, in spite of it's hippie liberal reputation, has a rather mediocre curbside recycling program. The high value glass and metal recyclables contribute significantly to the costs associated with recycling the harder to recycle materials. By removing the choicest scraps my neighbours are reducing the value of my recycling and making the curbside recycling program less efficient. I certainly don't recycle in order to donate to any individual.

I was tempted to ask the arguers to leave my trash alone but I suspect that would encourage them to just be more surreptitious about their pilferage. I did telephone the Ecology Center, which has the contract for Berkeley's curbside recycling program, to verify that removal of recyclable material is theft. They confirmed that until the recycling truck arrives and collects the materials everything in the bins remains my property. Again, it is probably moot to point this out the scavengers. I think, since the recycling truck doesn't arrive until 1pm, I'll just put my recycling out later.

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mduigou

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