As they say, one bad scavenger can spoil garbage-picking for the rest of the bunch. Or if they didn’t say it, they will soon — in Glenville, at least.
The town is looking to enact an anti-scavenging law that would be in effect year-round but is primarily intended to target those who have taken to scrounging through residents’ garbage during the town’s annual bulk pickup week. This year’s event, in which residents leave televisions, couches and other appliances at the curb for collection, will be held June 17.
Depending on the neighborhood, garbage-picking can be viewed as a refined art form or sloppy theft. Garbage nights and bulk pickup events can lure the seasoned antique dealer to shop for used furniture and overlooked treasures. They can also lure the poor to prowl for TVs, strollers, cribs and toys.
Then there are the opportunists who, looking to benefit from the rising prices of metal, will tear up people’s curbside trash under cover of night in their search for a bit of copper. This is what Glenville sees year after year on its bulk pickup nights, said town Supervisor Chris Koetzle.
“The scavenging is happening in the middle of the night, at 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning,” he said. “They make a lot of noise. They’ll tear apart grills and leave the pieces they don’t want strewn about the lawn. We’ve had complaints from people who set their lawn mower down to go get a drink of water and come back to someone taking it apart for the metal. These are the things we’re trying to stop.”
On Wednesday night, the Town Board passed a resolution to hold a June 12 public hearing at 7:30 p.m. on the proposed anti-scavenging law.
Koetzle said the board modeled the law after one the city of Schenectady proposed last year that was eventually shot down. It would impose a $500 fine or up to six months in jail on anyone caught trespassing on private property to scavenge.
“The bulk pickup items are on the lawns of our residents,” he said. “They’re on private property. This isn’t abandonment. When you put this trash at the end of your lawn, it’s a contract between us and the company we’ve hired to pick it up.”
Last summer, Glenville residents wrote to The Daily Gazette to express concern about the unsightly debris seen throughout town during bulk pickup week, which usually falls at the beginning of summer. One resident, Bill Majewski, complained that despite leaving his unwanted items neatly at the curb, it only took a matter of minutes before scavengers swooped in and left a mess behind, including a porcelain sink that had been smashed to get to the copper fixtures inside.
Koetzle said he has heard these complaints consistently over the years and has even been subject to scavenging himself.
“I’ve been awoken at my own house,” he said. “I had put a swing set out, and I heard them plunking around at 3:30 in the morning. We know they run the gamut, that there are some people who are just looking to repurpose stuff or find antiques. The ones that are problematic are the ones looking for metal. They’re in it as a business. So we’re just trying to give police the tools to deal with this.”
The town entered into a contract with County Waste & Recycling Service Inc. in February to allow the company to conduct the annual bulk pickup program at a cost not to exceed $18,645. The cost of the program has risen with each passing year, said Koetzle, in part because of the money lost from scavenged metal.
Schenectady’s City Council tried to address similar problems last year by proposing a no-scavenging law that would target people who take valuable recyclables out of televisions and other electronic items, leaving their shells behind. The city normally sells electronics to recycling companies, but the companies threatened to stop buying if they kept getting empty shells.
The proposed law drew impassioned outcry from city residents, however, who said most scavengers were just trying to make a living.