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Quit stealing my recyclables!

So a few months ago, I noticed that when I put recyclables out to the curb on Sunday night, the bags with paper – mostly newspaper, but with other stuff as well – would be gone by Monday morning, before the trucks arrived. I further noticed, and subsequently confirmed with a neighbor, that I wasn’t the only one to whom this was happening. So, being slightly paranoid even though we routinely shred anything that has identifying information on it, I made it my habit to put the non-paper out on Sunday night, and the paper on Monday morning before I go to work.

Which is what I did this Monday. And then, while herding the girls out the door to go to school and work, I saw a gray pickup truck stop in front of my driveway, and an older guy in what looked like a vintage yellow Houston Rockets “Clutch City” t-shirt get out and start to pick up the bags with paper in them from my bin. What the hell?

I stepped out the back door and said to him “Excuse me, what are you doing?” He made some lame excuse about needing the paper for his nephew, said he wouldn’t take the paper if I didn’t want him to, and drove off. Sadly, I didn’t get his license plate number.

Anyway, Tiffany wound up calling the city’s 311 line to complain about this, and was transferred to the HPD non-emergency line; an officer came by awhile later, and explained this wasn’t a crime. Which we already knew – we just wanted to let the city know this was happening, since presumably it would affect its ability to make money off of recyclables if some “entrepreneurs” were getting to them first.

I have no idea what this guy was up to. The market for scrap paper isn’t exactly robust right now – if he’d been lifting the aluminum cans, I’d have understood. The most likely explanation would seem to be that he was fishing for identities for some kind of scam or another. Which at least justified my paranoia, however annoying it may be that his actual action wasn’t illegal. We may wind up dealing with the paper recyclables separately as a result of this. Like I say, we do shred, but why take a chance? Regardless, I thought I’d put this out there as a warning to folks in my neighborhood, and to anyone else who might be interested. Has this ever happened to you? Let me know.

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  1. John says:

    Maybe he’s building a house out of paper mache?

    That’s seriously odd. Haven’t noticed it at this end of the Heights.

  2. katy says:

    I doubt this is the case, but I’ve been known to scavenge the curbside bins for craft purposes. Of course, I’m usually looking for the tin cans (lumnarias) all ready with my church lady reason… But that reminds me…my worm bin needs more newspaper…

  3. Carey says:

    The only experience I’ve had in the Heights was a woman with a stroller and kid walking down the street and pulling all the cans out of the bins. We don’t put sensitive items in the bin, we just rip it up and throw it away. We’re on paperless billing on most everything anyway.

  4. ttrentham says:

    People sift through my bins here in Austin all the time, mostly for the aluminum cans. I don’t think that’s a big deal.

    I’d be concerned on the identity theft front though. It’s why I don’t put any paper that may be used for identity theft into the recycling. I tear it up and put it in the trash. Yeah, it’s not the most environmentally friendly, but since I’m pretty good about recycling everything else, I’m ok with it.

    I like having the nasty trash as an extra deterrent to trying to sift through and steal identity info.

  5. matt says:

    Back in 1995, the city said taking stuff from people’s recycling bins was illegal and then-Police Chief Sam Nuchia promised to crack down on it.

    It is interesting to note that even Nuchia acknowledged that both police officers and the public were not aware that it was illegal.