Recyclables theft increases

In another indication that we’re hitting tough economic times, and facing not only peak oil, but “peak everything” – the age of scarcity as it’s being called, the Salt Lake Tribune has reported on an increase in the theft of recyclables. It’s not just aluminum and cash deposit bottles being snaffled now – glass jars, paper, in fact just about anything that can go out for kerbside recycling are also targets.

Recycling is now a huge business. The problems of illegal activity in terms of recycling probably kicked off when copper prices went sky high a few years ago and unscrupulous folks started stealing power lines and the like. I remember when a new power line was going in across the road from us, the elecricity authority had security guards posted at the site through the night to protect large spools of copper cabling.

On my last trip to the local recyclers, I noticed they had a couple of stripped down and beaten up cars in their yard. It seems there’s good cash in car shells now too; not so long ago they were just trash. It used to be that when your vehicle hit the end of its life, the best you could hope for was $50 from a wrecker. The guy I spoke to at the recycling center said my old van was worth $300 – just for the body (rubs hands together).

As resources become scarce and/or the production of goods increases due to price rises for raw materials; some people are finding that when they put even their domestic recycling out on the kerbside for pickup, “poachers” are moving in and cashing up on their refuse. It’s gotten to the stage for some Salt Lake City residents that the poaching isn’t done by stealth; the trucks are out there ready to grab the “trashure” in broad daylight.

A similar sort of thing is happening with kitchen grease; yes – old fat. Up until recently restaurants had to pay to have vats of used fat removed, but as the popularity of biofuels skyrockets, they are now being paid for that waste for use in biodiesel powered vehicles – or it’s being stolen.

While it’s absolutely wonderful to see trash now being really *valuable*, the idea of people breaking the law to cash in is a worry – will we see organized crime and violence over trash? A person should be able to decide *who* gets their trash – the poachers really should ask first. In our case, the recycled cans and bottles we collect finance a yearly donation to a local charity.

In the years to come, the old saying of “one mans trash is another’s treasure” will take on a new meaning. Maybe we’ll need to lock up our recycling bins. Maybe we’ll once again see “rag and bone” men navigating the streets by horse and cart.

Interesting times ahead.

Tip for biodieselers: I used to manage a KFC restaurant years ago (yes, yes, tortured chicken, I know – like I said; *used* to work for them) and we had to pay big bucks to have waste oil removed. As KFC’s standards for oil cleanliness are generally quite high, that means that each store disposes of a great deal of the stuff and its likely cleaner than what many other fast food places throw out. Get friendly with your local KFC manager ;).