WeHo Wants to Put a Lid on ‘Professional’ Scavenging

By Rafael Guerrero, 12/23/2010

City Will Try to Stop Raids on Trash Bins


The City of West Hollywood is looking into the possibility of using trash bins with locking lids to prevent scavenging. Currently some dumpsters are rolled out to the street, where people have easy access. (photo by Rafael Guerrero)

In an effort to clamp down on “professional” scavengers from raiding bins and stop them from trespassing on private property, the City of West Hollywood issued a report Monday on new methods to prevent the practice.

“There have been concerns expressed over people going into bins in the neighborhoods,” said Jeffrey Skorneck, housing manager for West Hollywood. “It is not only homeless people but also professionals taking away recyclables and going on to private property.”

The city will partner with Athens Services, the current contractor for collection service in West Hollywood, on new methods to keep out the scavengers, such as using locks on waste bins and better coordination on garbage pickups.

In addition, those caught digging through the bins will be fined $200 on the first offense, up from $150 a year ago. The fine doubles for every repeat offense.

The city wants to crack down on professional scavengers who are equipped with trucks that allow them to haul big loads of recyclables.

“Enforcement will be difficult,” Councilman Jeffrey Prang said. “But periodic sweeps where people are cited will hopefully dissuade some people from doing it.”

Mike Lewis, a representative for Athens Services, said professional scavengers are a growing problem that could cost the city money in the future.

“These professional scavengers can collect a significant amount of recyclables,” Lewis said. “They sweep through the city on trash day and raid the recycle bins.”

Lewis also said the city gets money for all of the recyclables it collects. The scavengers cut into that amount and further losses could result in financial penalties for the city, which would be passed on to Athens.

Lockable bins are one way to combat the problem. They can only be opened by the refuse company and have a hole where trash can be inserted, but is not big enough for a person to enter the bins.

Better coordination on pickups at apartment buildings with parking structures. Currently, Athens has scout trucks that go into the parking structures to pull out the bins for the garbage truck to pick up.

“The regular trucks are too big to go into these buildings to take out the dumpsters,” Lewis said. “So the scouts go down the block pulling out dumpsters and they stay in radio contact with the garbage trucks.”

But scouts pull out the dumpsters faster than the garbage trucks can pick them up, sometimes leaving a one-hour gap for scavengers to raid a bin’s contents.

“That’s when they go for the easy pickings,” Lewis said.

The city will have a six-month trial period for the proposed methods to see if they have an impact.

“In a few months we hope to have some specific conclusions for the city council,” Skorneck said.

After it is decided which methods work best, the city council will then have to find a way to incorporate the costs into the budget for the next fiscal year, which begins July 1. If the city chooses to incorporate methods with higher costs, such as lockable bins, then they may have to make changes to their current contract with Athens to account for the costs, according to Skorneck.


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