Truth behind trash pickers
May 18, 2012 (WPVI) -- Maybe you've seen them around town, or had to clean up after them on your street. Regardless, most people agree they are a growing nuisance. Trash Scavengers are making a mess, and costing you money.
On a glooming Monday morning in Philadephia, it is garbage day in Fairmont neighborhood. Trash lines the street, a potential gold mind for people like Dennis.
Most days, you can find Dennis pushing his cart and on several occasions tearing through trash bags in search of some lucrative scraps.
Dennis is a self professed trash picker, one of several in the city who can make hundreds of dollars a week rummaging through your rubbish.
"It's definitely worth it when it comes down to it," says Bill Perino of Penn Treaty Metals.
Bill Perino should know. At Penn Treaty Metals he sees it all, dozens of pickers coming in daily with trash he can turn into treasure, like the last pair who brought in all kinds of metal.
"When people put out their trash, and all, you just go around on trash day and you go through, hopefully you get lucky," said Patrick McCandless.
On one particular day, they did get lucky, scoring $85 worth of junk, and they're not doing anything illegal.
The city says once your trash is out, it is free for the taking. But because of the mess many pickers leave behind, it's far from free for you.
"Unfortunately, some people don't get that they have to clean up in front of their door, and we are forced to cite them," said Kerry Withers of the Philadelphia Streets Department Trash Enforcement.
Last year, the city of Philadelphia handed out nearly 20,000 violations to homeowners for trash strewn about, each fine, $50 or more.
Street Departments Enforcement Officers like Kerry Withers say they do hand out warnings, but add that garbage collectors can't slow down to sweep up the pickers' mess; however aggravating, that's up to you.
"It's really the residents' responsibility," said Withers. "It's in front of your door. I know that seems like it's harsh.
But you're not alone in paying for the pickers.
City officials say all those cans they take mean lost recycling revenue for the city; tens upon tens of thousands of dollars that would be used for officer uniforms, or vital city supplies.
To be fair, some pickers don't make a mess, but do make a small fortune, and the trend is slowly making its way to the suburbs.
That's where Doug Steinbrecher drives around collecting what his neighbors put out. He neatly piles it in his garage, something like a rainy day fund that he just found.
"You can probably get about $1,500 taking it like it is right now," said Steinbrecher.
So what you can do to avoid getting caught in the middle?
First, separate your trash. Don't put metals or recyclables in with you trash.
Second, by law you can't put trash out before 7:00pm, but if you can, wait until the morning. Most trash trucks come by after 8:00am, so if you can get out just before they come, the pickers are less likely to target you trash.
philadelphia, pennsylvania, special reports, brian taff
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