Person rummaging through recycling bin in Imperial Beach.
  • Person rummaging through recycling bin in Imperial Beach.
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Each week in Imperial Beach residents are putting out their blue recycling bins and thieves are stealing their aluminum cans and other beverage containers.

Before the Edco garbage trucks arrive, many bins are picked clean by people who take the bottles and cans to a recycling center.

Cindy Horned, director of customer service for Edco, said via email “This is an ongoing issue throughout San Diego County. Sometimes the police will respond if there is no emergency situation happening as this is an offense or you can call for advice. We will also attempt to send our route supervisor to help discourage the scavenging.”

Sue, who answered Edco’s customer service phone line, was less diplomatic. “As a company Edco can’t enforce the law. That’s up to the police. But these people are breaking the law by taking your stuff. It isn’t just your recyclables they're after either. You need to worry about identity theft. It’s usually the same person, at the same time, at the same place. It’s not just you either — it’s happening everywhere. Report them.”

Working in pairs.

A sheriff deputy talking to me off the record says he stops scavengers all the time. “It’s a violation of the municipal code against scavenging. I let them know it’s illegal. San Diego isn’t very strict so we tell them to go to San Diego.”

An older man who didn’t want to identify himself was collecting aluminum cans from an apartment complex dumpster and acknowledged he's been hassled by the cops for taking recycling. “Honestly, it’s all bullshit,” he said before taking another dive into the dumpster to fish out more cans.

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dwbat April 3, 2014 @ 4:25 p.m.

It happens every day here in North Park.


Dave Rice April 4, 2014 @ 8:14 p.m.

I've seen police interrogating people "canning" twice in the last few months out in OB - apparently once a can hits the recycling bin it's city property...not sure if they use recycling revenues as an offset for pickup or what, but although it does seem to be both a common practice and one authorities are making an attempt to crack down on.

Personally the only time it bothers me is when they fling trash around while they're digging, leaving me to pick it up later...usually after I call the city to remind them that their driver missed my black can pickup (grey can for most of the county) for the second or third time this month.


Burwell April 5, 2014 @ 9:14 a.m.

It's better to let the homeless take the bottles and cans from the recycle bins. The reason is that most of the recyled trash the garbage man picks up is not recycled but tossed in the landfill like regular trash. The costs of recycling are greater than the value of the recycled materials. It's the same thing with the containers at grocery stores to recycle plastic shopping bags. When the bins fill up the bins are dumped in the regular trash and the bags are not recycled. Most retail stores with recycle bins for the public throw the recyled materials in the regular trash because they don't want to pay a recylcer to pick it up.


dwbat April 5, 2014 @ 10:47 a.m.

RE: "... most of the recycled trash the garbage man picks up is not recycled but tossed in the landfill like regular trash." Can you provide the evidence to back up that claim? You can contact the city's Environmental Services Department at 858-694-7000 or email [email protected]. Ask them about your claim, and report back here what their response is. I don't believe the dept. will agree with your statement. RE: "The costs of recycling are greater than the value of the recycled materials." It's not supposed to be a for-profit service. It's to keep more trash out of the landfills. But the value of those recycled materials would be worth way MORE, if the valuable beverage cans/bottles were NOT stolen from the trash bins on a daily basis by the scroungers. Those 5- and 10-cents per container add up to a considerable amount of $$ over a year.


danfogel April 5, 2014 @ 11:52 a.m.

dwbat, one thing to keep in mind. the CRV as in California Redemption Value is sales tax revenue gained on the imposed fee and ends up in the state's recycling program. The CRV as in California Refund Value which ends up in your pocket in the form of those 5- and 10-cents per container when you take them to a recycle center. BTW, most cost-benefit analysis of recycling studies I have read all come to the same conclusion, thatrecycling programs are in fact one the most costly methods of waste disposal. And that doesn't even take into consideration the increased use of fossil fuels, increased air and noise pollution. I also read an EPA report that “recycling 100 tons of old newsprint generates 40 tons of toxic waste” and 13 of the 50 worst Superfund Sites (hazardous waste sites) are currently or were at one point recycling facilities. And surprisingly, there are less curbside recycling programs nationwide than there were 10 yrs ago.


dwbat April 5, 2014 @ 7:43 p.m.

I knew about the CRV double meaning. But I've never cashed in any bottle/cans at the recycle center. My point was all those beverage containers can't be "cashed in" if most are are stolen before the trucks arrive to empty the blue bins. The law banning such theft either needs to be enforced, or rescinded. It's not working as it should.


Burwell April 5, 2014 @ 9:37 p.m.

The city pays private contractors to recycle the trash. Recycling is a money losing proposition. The amount the city is willing to pay the contractors is enough to process only a small portion of the recyclables that are collected. Most recyclables wind up in the landfill as ordinary trash. Recylcing is a scam like everything else connected with government. If the homeless steal cans and bottles and take them to a recylcing center, those items will be recycled. If the cans and bottles are left in the blue bin and collected by the garbage man, those items will most likely wind up in the landfill. It might be best to leave the cans and bottles in plastic bags by the side of the blue bins so the homeless can find them without having to rummage.


dwbat April 6, 2014 @ 9:32 a.m.

RE: "If the cans and bottles are left in the blue bin and collected by the garbage man, those items will most likely wind up in the landfill." Who says? Again, where is the evidence and proof of that? You keep saying this, but what are the actual facts? You forgot to call Environmental Services Department, and ask them about it. Or go visit landfills, and see if you can take photos of the thousands of recyclable bottles/cans being dumped by the trash haulers.


dwbat April 18, 2014 @ 9:44 p.m.

Have you been able to collect the evidence yet (that those recyclable cans/bottles just end up in the landfill)? Did you take any photos, or do some spying from a distance with a telescope? Or did you get direct information from one of the truck drivers? [I already know the answer.]


Burwell April 5, 2014 @ 9:48 p.m.

Lowe's hardware chain just paid an $18 million fine because they had recyling bins at the entrances to their stores in San Diego to collect old ink cartridges, batteries etc. Lowes did not recycle these items but merely dumped them with the regular trash. Recycling is a giant scam.


dwbat April 6, 2014 @ 2:32 p.m.

I saw that on the news. But we are talking about the handling of the blue-bins content. If you have inside knowledge about the private contractors dumping that recyclable trash into landfills, you need to turn that information over to the District Attorney's office ASAP for possible investigation.


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