One Man's Trash is Another Man's Misdemeanor in Raleigh - Sparrow Law Firm

When an East Raleigh man saw a pickup truck in his neighborhood one morning, he didn’t think anything of it. Then a man got out of the truck, picked up a curbside recycling bin and dumped the contents — mostly aluminum cans — into his truck before driving off. That was odd. It was even stranger later in the day when a different man in a different truck repeated the process. The witness reported the thefts to city officials.

Stealing cans and other materials from curbside recycling bins is on the rise, and with good reason. Metal scrap dealers pay about 75 cents for a grocery bagful of aluminum cans. Still, it is theft, and the Raleigh City Council has decided to do something about it. Earlier this week, the council passed a law that makes stealing recyclables a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of as much as $500.

It isn’t exactly a victimless crime: The city earns $30 for every ton of materials sent to the recycling processor. That may not seem like much, but households and businesses have recycled 296,000 tons since 1989, when curbside recycling was introduced.

The new law is meant to deter thefts, according to the city attorney. The city also hopes to discourage thieves by replacing the curbside bins with rollout carts. The carts are harder to dump over, and research has shown that residents tend to recycle more with carts.

First-time offenders will earn a warning, but after that officers will be issuing tickets. The fines will go to the Wake County school system.

Source: News & Observer, “Raleigh outlaws thefts from recycling bins,” Matt Garfield, March 7, 2012