The City Council considered Monday the impact that trash scavenging has on the city’s waste management initiatives, as well as its effect on Recyclebank, a new rewards program that offers incentives for residents to recycle.
During a presentation on Recyclebank, which picks up recyclables that residents leave on the curb, Councilwoman Barbara Messina raised concerns that scavengers might get to them first. “Sometimes they come very early in the morning,” Messina said, noting that there was no way for residents to watch over their trash around the clock.
Susanne Passantino, manager of government affairs for Allied Waste Services, responded that residents should include bulkier recyclables – phone books and laundry detergent jugs, for instance – in their collections. These items are generally not redeemable for money at recycling centers, making them worthless to scavengers.
Councilman Steven Placido then asked if scavenging has influenced the city’s efforts to comply with the state's mandate on trash reduction. Alhambra has met its goals on a consistent basis, according to Assistant to the City Manager Ann-Marie Hayashi, explaining that scavenging does not have an effect, as the law focuses on the amount of trash being diverted away from landfills, not the amount being recycled. A 1989 California law requires all cities to cut 50 percent of its annual waste per capita from the 1990 total.
As long as scavengers are returning their items to recycling centers, Alhambra would not be adding more to the amount they send to landfills. “People often think the focus is on recycling,” Hayashi told the Alhambra Source. “The concern is actually on preservation of landfill space.”
In a previous interview with The Alhambra Source, Sergeant Brandon Black of the Alhambra Police Department said that the city has an ordinance which prohibits scavenging from curb-side recycling containers. He noted that the complaints received by the department often focus on safety and suspicious activity.
"In talking to many of our residents, it seems that they are more concerned with unsavory or suspicious people coming into their neighborhoods and going through curb-side recycling bins than they are with the actual theft of recyclables," Black said.