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They took my GARBAGE!


This is just idiotic and it makes me angry.

This Star Tribune story on aluminum can "poachers"appeared on the front page of Friday's paper. It took up a large portion of the page and warned readers to call 911 when they see the poachers.

So, let me get this strait, you want us to use an emergency number when we see a homeless person "stealing" our garbage? Don't the 911 operators have oh let's say EMERGENCIES to deal with? They also listed the losses to the city, but it doesn't appear in the linked article for some reason. I believe it was somewhere around $100,000-$200,000 annually. Not very much when you look at the big picture of the whole budget, and how do they know how much people are actually recycling anyway? How do they know the actual losses? The number is just a guess.

Here are my problems with this:

1. As far as I can tell, most people who "steal" cans are homeless and/or desperate enough to be digging through other people's garbage. Yet we want to fine them:

Stealing up to $250 in cans is a misdemeanor, $250 to $500 a gross misdemeanor, and more than $500 a felony, he said.

A FELONY. Also, there is jail time involved.

2. Several times I have seen someone getting cans out of our neighbor's garbage across the alley. I have stood in my upstairs window and watched 2 different people. They are only getting them out of their GARBAGE bags, not the recycling, because my neighbors don't recycle. They also have put all the stuff they took out of the garbage back when they are done.

3. Is the city going to fine people for not recycling their cans? Because if you put people in jail and fine them for "stealing" cans from the city it seems odd to let others just throw them away. Even worse if you fine people for taking those cans that have been thrown away, when the "pilferers" are going to be recycling them.

4. Why was this splashed across the front page?

5. Doesn't the city have more important things to worry about?

This just strikes me as really sick. If people are digging through the trash and taking cans to recycle them, they are desperate, and they are barely making any money. The city should not be throwing them in jail for taking the garbage of those who are more fortunate. I mean really, stealing GARBAGE? Gah!

May 14, 2005 | Permalink


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I once lived at an apartment building that had the greatest garbage stealer ever. He was about 50 years old, totally wiry, and he wore a skin-tight Mr. Bubble T-shirt. I'm not being facetious here, this was style and it was awesome.

Seriously, though, I often was bringing out my garbage while garbage stealers were operating, and I'd put my cans right into their little wagon. For Christ's sake, it's GARBAGE, and I was paying to have it hauled away. The least I could do was donate it to a worthy cause. Plus I got some good conversations out of it.

Posted by: Barrett at May 15, 2005 1:24:32 AM

Wait...maybe I missed it, but does this mean that they also get charged for taking cans out of public garbage receptacles? Is garbage in city owned garbage cans city property? I can't, and wouldn't want to, imagine the type of person that would have big enough balls to arrest a homeless person for trying to get a $.05 return on something someone else has tossed out. I feel like that would be political suicide, unless I am once again overestimating the social conscience of the general public (which is quite possible).

Posted by: Tim at May 15, 2005 4:32:06 PM

Sadly, Tim, I think you are (overestimating the social conscience of the general public).

But in the happyland in my head these "poachers" would never be arrested. In fact, instead of detaining them they would instead be offered assistance, to find out why there were in such desperate straits to begin with and how their situations could be improved. At the very least, they would be welcome to any cans, in the trash or otherwise.

What a stupid world we live in.

Posted by: Sharyn at May 16, 2005 5:18:33 PM

Tim when you said, "I can't, and wouldn't want to, imagine the type of person that would have big enough balls to arrest a homeless person for trying to get a $.05 return on something someone else has tossed out." The return is actually more like .008 a can figuring it takes about 30 cans to equal a pound at .25 a pound.

Posted by: salvado at May 17, 2005 1:31:15 AM

Next step: poaching the poachers! That's right, property crime is tantamount to personal assault, and we have the God-given right to defend ourselves, our homes, and our families (also our wives) against any and all threats of bodily harm, be they recycled or otherwise. I say: take 'em out!


Posted by: Jonathan at May 19, 2005 10:11:21 AM

Yes, Jesus would want it that way. Jesus LOVED guns!

Posted by: Lorika at May 19, 2005 11:39:48 AM

That pretty much stunk. Jonathon bats one out of the park, darn funny I'd say. Then lorika, trying to second that, whiffs blaspheming God. :::sigh::: :-(

Posted by: salvado0000 at May 19, 2005 10:07:50 PM

What? Jesus didn't love guns? But Charlton Heston thinks he did, and Charlton Heston is Moses. You don't get much closer to the Lord Almighty unless you count the time Jerry Falwell bitch slapped the Holy Spirit over a bottle of bourbon and some Texas Hold'em. You have to watch that Holy Spirit. Tricky bastard's always making himself invisible and looking over your shoulder.

I....don't quite see where the blaspheming was.

Oh, and also Salvado...in New York State the return on cans is actually $.05. We pay a $.05 deposit for each can and bottle when we buy them as an incentive to return them for recycling. Maybe they do things differently where you are. Either way, this whole thing is ridiculous.

Posted by: Tim at May 19, 2005 10:44:48 PM

Human behavior never ceases to amaze me...

Posted by: salvado at May 21, 2005 3:39:17 AM

I like... when people are considerate and kind. Kind of stinks when people hurt other people to make themselves feel better.

Posted by: salvado at May 21, 2005 3:49:18 AM

I don't understand.

Posted by: Jonathan at May 22, 2005 4:46:20 PM

Hey, he can come over and take all of my cans and bottles. In fact, I'll put them in a clean plastic bag and hand it to him. I just wish those suckers who don't recycle would realize that he has to dig through their moldy coffee grounds to fish out their recycleables...

Posted by: beavela at May 26, 2005 9:22:34 PM

The reason the city is worked up about this is because they need the revenue from the cans to pay for the recycling program itself. If homeless people took all of the cans from the recycling containers and brought them in themselves, the city recycling program would tank. Not that I agree with the article, just to clarify for people having a hard time understanding why the city would care.

Posted by: Alex at Jun 6, 2005 1:23:34 PM

Ok, but the problem is not really that homeless people like to take the cans, the problem is that there are lots of people out there that don't have enough to survive on, and they are not getting help.

You gotta survive somehow. Cracking down on homeless people because they are desperate, still strikes me as sick for a society to do, revenue shortfall or no.

Also, as far as I can tell there's no distinction between taking cans from the recycling bins, and taking cans from the garbage.

Posted by: Lorika at Jun 7, 2005 12:41:20 PM

This whole thing is completely ludicrus, but what I really don't understand is the felony charge for "Stealing" $500 worth of cans. Let's think about this carefully:

I couldn't locate the redemption value for cans in MN, but 5 cents seems like a high-estimate. $500 is equal to 10,000 cans. If someone were to be apprehended "stealing" cans, any decent lawyer could demonstrate that they did not necessarily "steal" whatever other cans they had in possession at the time of arrest. Of course, these people can't afford an attorney or they wouldn't be out collecting cans.

So, that said, this means that they'd actually have to be caught stealing in excess of 10,000 cans in order to be charged with a felony. It'd take one hell of a private party to leave behind 10,000 empty cans. This means that the only possible places someone might encounter 10,000 aluminum cans would already be locked up and breaking and entering is most likely already a felony.

The article suggests that if you see a poacher you should call 911. Let's just say that on average it takes a cop 30 minutes worth of work to cite and process a "poacher." If the police in MN make $30 an hour, that's a minimum of $15 lost city revenue going after each "poacher," and probably a hell of a lot more than $15. Unless they stop the "theft" of at least 300 cans on each call then they are actually costing the city more money to enforce this so-called law.

Posted by: Josh Wolf at Jun 9, 2005 3:58:24 AM

Brilliant analysis Josh! I never thought to calculate how much was being lost to simply trying to catch and prosecute these dastardly doers. That makes me even more upset about the whole thing. Might have to elevate this one to ricockulous.

Posted by: Lorika at Jun 9, 2005 4:38:30 PM