One Woman's Trash Is the City's Treasure


The other day, Paul Lawrence saw a discarded air conditioner sitting on a sidewalk in the Middle Village neighborhood of Queens. "There was a lady here," he recalls. "I asked the lady, 'Can I take the air conditioner?' She said, 'Go ahead, take it. It's garbage.'" But when Lawrence tried to put the A.C. in a car he borrowed from his aunt, the local CBS affiliate reports, a sanitation officer fined him $2,000. The Sanitation Department also hit his 73-year-old aunt with a $2,000 fine for facilitating what it views as the theft of city property:

Department of Sanitation officials said it's not always illegal to pick up something from the street. It's only when you're driving a vehicle that the law gets triggered.

Recycling is a revenue source for the city and sanitation officials said the law was "designed to deter organized rings of recycling thefts" that cost the city more than $300,000 a year.

As George Liquor might say (if George Liquor worked for the Sanitation Department), a city works hard for its filth just to have vagrants come and steal it. It's a crying shame.

[Thanks to Tricky Vic for the tip.]

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  1. I have an old friend who works for the City of Minneapolis. He considers the people who go up and down the alleys taking cans out of the recycling bins to be thieves. He get pretty hot about it. “They’re stealing from the city!!!”

    My take is that the people I’ve seen doing it looked to be genuinely poor and if I correctly recall, the city loses money on recycling cans.

    1. Cans are the only recycle material which are a net money-maker. That’s why it’s worth it for bums to take them. They turn around and sell the cans in bulk to recycling centers.

      The city charges a fee to residents to pick up all recycling, then skims the profits from can recycling off the top, so you tell me who the thief is in the story.

      1. The wife will recycle every last fucking scrap of paper, but will throw metal in the trash. It doesn’t matter how many times I explain to her how valuable metal is and how worthless paper is, probably having a negative value, factoring in collection and processing costs.

        Yes, she’s economically illiterate. She’s a liberal.

        1. But you married her anyway.

          1. JW, who knew you had taste.

          2. He didn’t say she was his wife, he called her the wife. Maybe she lives next door.

    2. I used to work near the bulk recyclers in Minneapolis. It is amazing how much aluminum these guys can tote.

      It is also amusing that a fully funded city department with trucks is outperformed by a group of poor folks with no plan and only various carts to haul things away in.

  2. Note: The city also made money by fining him $2k! Everyone wins; the system works!

    1. Fining is easy…it’s the collecting that’s hard. Better build another prison for debtors! Now that’s stimulating.

  3. OK that looks like its gonna be a lot of fun.


  4. Recycling is a revenue source for the city[…]

    The tax-fed leeches and lice hate competition.

  5. They hate people interacting voluntarily.


    1. they really just hate competition. otherwise, people might think that the government shouldn’t be collecting trash, then they would lose all there sweet union jobs and government pensions.

  6. sanitation officials said the law was “designed to deter organized rings of recycling thefts” that cost the city more than $300,000 a year.

    Go upstairs and fine the original owner of the A/C unit $2K for everything in her house that she hasn’t put out for recycling, then. Then the law will make perfect sense.

  7. Recycling thefts? I could see if people were jumping on the back of the recycling truck and grabbing metals out of it. But are they claiming that anything on the curb is city property even before the city has taken possession of it?

    If I put something out with the recycling, and then change my mind and bring it back in my house, am I guilty of theft from the city?

    1. Apparently only if you back down the driveway in your car, load it in, and drive it back to your garage.

    2. Tulpa,

      Yes and, IIRC the courts have ruled on that in several cases where the police did warrantless searches of someone’s garbage… once you put it on the curb it’s no longer yours.

      Senseless, but that’s how it has been ruled.

      1. “”Yes and, IIRC the courts have ruled on that in several cases where the police did warrantless searches of someone’s garbage… once you put it on the curb it’s no longer yours.””

        If you intend to discard, you don’t want it to be yours. However, a city claiming it automatically becomes their property is very different.

  8. I see this as being no different from England making biodiesel illegal.

    Saving the environment by converting that old cooking oil into diesel for your car? Not if it fucks with our revenue you’re not.

    1. my dad who lives in England drives a diesel car. he used to sneak up to the back of restaurants at night and fill up with waste oil. his car smelled like fish and chips but it drove happily.

      1. considering the incredible taxes on petrol, it was probably still cheaper for him to continue doing this and paying the fines when caught.

  9. I’m looking around my room at all the furniture my wife and I picked up off the street when we lived in Queens and Manhattan and congratulating myself for having pulled off so many daring heists.

    1. You’re lucky you didn’t get bed bugs. Needless to say, I’ve learned the hard, swollen, itchy way to stay away from garbage picking and thrift stores.

      1. You only grab stuff made of solid wood, metal or plastic, then you clean it off with bleach and scotchpads.

        Upholstery, no way, anything from dogs to the people formerly known as winos can leak on it just for the hell of it.

  10. Just another day in the People’s Republic of Bloomberg.

  11. Having worked civil service and for a municipality I’ve seen this first hand. The Sanitation Department where I worked was smart enough at first to realize people were getting rid of shit they would otherwise have to pickup. A few of the early morning mechanics would also go through the early morning drop offs and previous days large metal recycling and scrap out copper coils and other metals and sometimes actually scrap in the allies themselves before their shifts. (I looked at it as perk to getting to work at 4 am)

    Now the city cites people scrapping in allies and won’t allow scrapping by anyone in the yard. No reason given.

    1. lets go with alleys…

  12. If I video a city garbage collection, will I go to jail?

    1. Yes, but only after the sanitation workers shoot your dog.

  13. Moral of the story: if you want to pick shit off the street, get a shopping cart like a respectable wino.

  14. Sweet. I never knew I was a thief.
    But just -how- is the city claiming to own property it has not yet collected is beyond me. Do they own my 6 pack in the fridge as well, I mean, it will be on the curb at some point. Or is it the mere act of being on the curb that transfers said property to the city, like some sort of contract.

    1. The curb is city property, so yes.

      1. Except in NYC the property owner is responsible for repairing the sidewalk, so… that theory doesn’t seem to work.

        1. And responsible to shovel snow and keep it clean.

          1. Yeah, and scofflaws who neglect to maintain the city’s property that happens to be adjacent to their own are a tidy little huge revenue source too.

  15. I wonder if the regular cops are aware of this. If I set a soda can on the curb, I’m not littering, I’m generating revenue for the city.

  16. Municipalities have changed the context of the term public to mean belonging to the corporate entity that holds the city charter. Public once meant belonging to the citizens or tax payers. But with the reclassification, just like their federal brothers in crime, they can privatize gains and socialize loss. What a great communist federation we live in, comrades!

  17. TrickyVic??

    I posted this story yesterday in this thread:…..nt_1800499

  18. Bloomington, a suburb of Minneapolis, is missing out big on this.

    Every year they have a couple trash amnesty days. You can put all sorts of stuff that you normally have to pay extra to drop off at the dump out on the curb and the city will pick it up no questions asked (or I guess no fees charged).

    The day before and during the pickup, the neighborhood is swarming with pickers who are scanning the offerings. If they see something good they grab it.

    I think the city officials are actually happy, though, to have less stuff to pick up. If they new about the revenue they could get from tickets, they might change their minds.

  19. Sanitation Officer…fining people. We now have garbage police…that without a hearing…can fine you for violating a “Garbage Law”?
    Land of the Free my A$$

  20. Well, you peoole haven;’t seen the point> The eagle’s view of the story is tht we’re NOT free. We have no rights anymore, we’re serfs.

    And it will continue, tptb will continue the abuse, and the downward spiral, until we tell them, ENOUGH!

    So far we’ve been passive, which is what a good slave is, eh?

    But it’s our fault, because we’re allowing it. We’re giving them permission.

    As since, we’re allowing it, they come up and give us more. They say, “Oh, yeah? They take it. We’ll let’s go further!”

    People, there are more of us, than there are of them!

    When we rise , enmass, I mean block by block, neighborhoodds together, and draw a line on the ground, it will stop. And roll back.

    We, The People are THEIR bosses, they WORK for us. Have you forgotten that?

  21. Property investment is a little complex, especially for the new ones that is why Property Magazines are presented in an easy way.

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