The city of Schenectady appears to have made peace with the trash scavengers it was on the verge of outlawing last summer but graciously did not. Now the town of Glenville is contemplating a similar law in response to trash pickers who make a mess of its annual bulk pickup week, which arrives in a month.
We can sympathize with the town’s plight — the sense of being invaded in the middle of the night by an army of trash pickers can be frustrating, especially when they take all the valuable stuff and leave the worthless junk scattered about. But as we opined about Schenectady’s plan a year ago, we think such a law would be mean-spirited and largely unnecessary.
First, it’s not clear that Glenville’s messes are all caused by scavengers. In a letter to the editor last May, town resident Mike Aragosa indicated that many residents take advantage of bulk pickup week to get rid of unwanted construction and demolition debris and other inappropriate refuse. (He recommended that the town remind residents about what is allowed, then check up on them to make sure they comply.)
Second, scavengers can provide a beneficial environmental service by reducing the town’s waste stream and recycling items that might otherwise wind up in a landfill or incinerator. Even though the cost of the town’s contract with County Waste & Recycling has gone up every year (is that so unusual?), it really might soar if all the junk that’s been getting diverted to scavengers’ trunks and pickup beds instead stays on homeowners’ curbs.
Third, does the town really need a new law when it could enforce an existing one, against littering, to get the most bothersome scavengers — e.g. those who strip electronics of their valuable metals and leave the junk behind — to behave themselves? We think the answer is no, and hope the town can avoid making outlaws of the people who supplement meager incomes in tough economic times through such gleanings.