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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Pasadena Independent / Pasadena Considers Strengthening Ordinance to Deter Waste Scavenging

Pasadena Considers Strengthening Ordinance to Deter Waste Scavenging

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-Photo by Terry Miller

-Photo by Terry Miller

On Monday night’s meeting of the Pasadena City Council, Gabriel Silva, a Department of Public Works Management Analyst IV, Solid Waste/Recycling, gave a presentation to the council of an ordinance designed to deter large-scale scavenging in the City of Pasadena.

The main goals of the legislature involved strengthening a preexisting ordinance so that better enforcement of the policy could be implemented. The reason that the DPW is so interested in tightening this policy comes from the fact that large-scale scavengers have a detrimental effect on the city’s recycling program, Silva noted in his presentation.

The scope of the ordinance will be expanded under the new legislature to encompass large city events—like the Rose Parade—so that, in the future, such events will hopefully be free of scavengers and their bags of aluminum cans. Silva claims that the Police Department and City Prosecutor’s Office found the language of the original bill written in a way that was difficult to enforce; with this most recent revision, the language of the legislature has been expanded so that the term “scavenger” now encompasses the scavenging of cans from residential and commercial waste receptacles as well.

The new legislation adds new definitions to the bill so that now the terms “scavenging” and “Special Events” and “Large Venue” are more easily understood. Also, the bill includes language allowing law enforcement officials to cite vehicle drivers/registered owners observed participating in scavenging.

The ordinance now allows for law enforcement to collect scavenged recyclables from scavengers and to issue fines in order to “deter the occurrence of large-scale scavenging conducted by organized groups utilizing vehicles,” on the grounds that, “over the years, scavenging has grown into a business often involving multiple individuals working together to collect entire truckloads of material. Large-scale scavenging operations have been observed curbside and also at the Rose Bowl events where the city has invested substantial resources to facilitate recycling of materials generated.”

In addition to this, new composting rules were placed into the legislature. Silva claimed that the ordinance now fits with “Zero Waste Pasadena 2040,” an ambitious vision for waste management described in the DPW’s strategic plan for the program as, “not necessarily 100 percent recycling but it shifts the focus to waste reduction, product redesign, and elimination of wasteful practices. It is a framework for reducing generation of waste and maximizing diversion, not a strict tonnage goal.”

A thirty-day education period for the ordinance is currently effect, and scavengers caught by members of law enforcement with large bags of recyclables during this period will be given warnings rather than be issued the full citation. In addition, bilingual flyers and community education will be provided by the city so that the new ordinance concerning the large-scale scavenging of recyclables will be provided. Also, at special events from now on, all bags of recycling will confined to special bags imprinted with the logo of the City of Pasadena to deter the theft of recyclables from large events.

Councilmembers Tyron Hampton and John J. Kennedy were not happy with the ordinance.

Councilmember Kennedy asked, “Has staff given any consideration to what the ordinance is having or will have on that small group of people who actually engage in this activity to live?”

Following this, Councilmember Hampton added, “I think that it criminalizes homelessness. Those are the individuals that we’re talking about. … I would hate for a homeless person to be arrested for pulling out trash. For us it may be trash, but for them it’s dollars. Regardless of if it’s city property or not, it gives them an honest way of making a living.”

Since the ordinance only affects trash bins owned by the city, the Independent would like to suggest that if you are a resident of Pasadena and would like to leave out a bag of recyclables for someone you’ve entered into such an agreement with, the best way to go about it would be to purchase a private trash can, chain it to a stake in your yard, and mark it clearly with a sign reading “private property” so that if the city accidentally comes and picks it up, you can cite them under the new ordinance for scavenging.

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