Local News

Stealing recyclables could become crime in Raleigh

Posted February 27, 2012

— City leaders are thinking about making stealing recyclables a crime in Raleigh.

Thieves are targeting clusters of recycling bins outside restaurants and bars in downtown Raleigh and taking aluminum cans. The cans can prove profitable, if many are taken. One pound of aluminum, about 32 cans, can earn a person 55 cents. 

For every ton of recyclables the city hauls to its processing site, it makes $30. Last fiscal year, Raleigh residents and businesses recycled 23,000 tons of material. That equated to about $690,000 that was placed into the general fund and likely used to pay for recycling operation costs, officials said. 

Mark Turner said he saw a blue pickup truck cruising through his neighborhood on recycling day recently. He said a guy got out of the vehicle and started taking cans from his neighbor's bin. 

"He had this big 30-gallon trash can in the back of his truck, and he was going through the neighborhood filling it up," Turner said. 

A few hours later, Turner saw another truck with another man doing the same thing. So, he contacted the city’s Solid Waste Services Department.

Solid Waste Services Director Fred Battle said his office gets complaints about the problem just about every week.

“We need something in place to deter people from going through recycling, taking materials, because it’s taking away from city revenue," Battle said.

recycle bin Stealing recyclables could be crime in Raleigh

Battle brought his concerns to the city attorney, which prompted a draft ordinance making recyclable rummaging a misdemeanor.

The Raleigh City Council is expected to vote on the proposal on March 6. If passed, offenders would face up to a $500 fine.

"I really hope this doesn't lead to calling cops every time they see somebody going through (recyclables). I'm hoping organized teams that appear to be going through recycling will think twice about it now," Turner said. 


This story is closed for comments.

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  • sinenomine Mar 7, 2012

    At what point in time does the city gain a property interest in the aluminum can? When I pay for it at the store? At the point at which I drink the last drop of liquid from it? When I place it in the recycling drawer in my kitchen? When I put it in the bin in my garage? When I put the bin on the street for pickup? What if, instead of recycling, I save all my old cans and sell them myself for scrap? Am I a lawbreaker? What if, after putting the bin on the street, I decide to remove the cans and sell them myself or give them to a charity drive? Am I in violation of the ordinance then?

    It seems to me that a property owner has a qualified right to remove his/her/its own cans from the recycling bin or cart at any time until the city picks them up. I would think that only after the city has sole possession of the cans (i.e. once they are in the truck)would it be possible to make it a crime to steal them.

  • Ex-Republican Feb 28, 2012

    "We need something in place to deter people from going through recycling, taking materials, because it’s taking away from city revenue," Battle said."

    The whole point of recycling is TO HELP THE ENVIRONMENT, NOT TO MAKE MONEY. The material is still being recycled, so why do you care how it gets done?

    This shows just how good intentions become perverted and how petty some people are.

  • Vietnam Vet Feb 28, 2012

    "on the other hand, if the city is "making" money off of your recycling, i sure hope they're not also charging you for pickup..."

    Can't speak for Raleigh but I'm guessing that all the cities make something out of recyclabes, but the Town of Apex charges for pickup...

  • cushioncritter Feb 28, 2012

    At $0.55 per pound of cans (about 32 cans), that works out to $1100 per ton! Yet the City of Raleigh would put someone in jail for "depriving" it of $30 for the same ton of (commingled?) recyclables. I know I will not be "recycling" any more of my cans, but will crush them and take them to a metal recycler,both to earn some money and to deprive this pathetic "trash sorting for profit" scheme.

  • 2boaters Feb 28, 2012

    Seems to me you are putting recyclabe materials in a bin or cart owned by the city of raleigh and placing it in the city right of way - ergo it belongs to the city of raleigh - who collects it. anyone else taking it is a theif! a theif that will be making your taxes rise since the revenues the city gets offset the cost of collecting the material!

  • abylelab -BT- Feb 28, 2012

    i've never really looked into it, but i always thought that refuse put out for pickup became the property of the company picking it up. which, within a city, would be the city, and that would be why police for the city can search it without a warrant.

    on the other hand, if the city is "making" money off of your recycling, i sure hope they're not also charging you for pickup...

  • piene2 Feb 28, 2012

    There is a world of difference between a recycling bin and a garbage can. Yes, garbage is up for grabs. Material placed in recycling bins is material waiting for it's owners to pick up for processing. The law will be passed and it will be upheld.

  • Disabled Vet Feb 28, 2012

    Stealling is stealing. However, with our economy going the way it is and getting worse every day, people gotta do whatever they have to in order to provide for their families. Obama says the ecnomy is doing good, I wonder what country he is talking about because it sure ain't here!

  • bbqchicken Feb 27, 2012

    My understanding is that once it is put on the curb that it is abandoned property and that since their is no expectation of privacy that would also mean no ownership. It's not the city's yet, but they wanna make sure nobody else gets it.
    February 27, 2012 7:37 p.m.

    Yes there is case law on this very subject, with more references to LEO's in general going through garbage left at the end of the road. It was generally held what you explained above.

  • bbqchicken Feb 27, 2012

    Cry me a river, how exactly do you "Raleigh" expect to get around plenty of case law that will over rule this so called new ordinance. Trash left at the end of the road off peoples property already has precident. Just because that trash is labeled recycled is no relevance.