“Law, without force, is impotent.” —Blaise Pascal
The City of Manchester, in its infinite wisdom, seeks to enact an anti-scavenging ordinance prohibiting the scavenging of recyclable items from curbside bins. Under the new measure, violators would be slapped with a fine.
If this ordinance is enacted, the homeless and ‘ner-do wells’ who scavenge cans bottles and other such recyclable matter, perhaps to supplement their kids’ grocery bill, would be levied such fine. And/or the bums who cull bins, that they might purchase that jug of wine, would also be assessed a fine. Now, does anybody think the resource-challenged among us will pay? Picture Manchester Police officers writing the tickets…address? “Shopping cart under the bridge,” all while rolling their eyes muttering, “yeah…right…enforce that ordinance…” Just feel the wind swirling off of the fenders of patrol cars speeding up and down Lake Ave in search of the law-breaking scavenger. After all, our Police Offiers have little better to do, right?
A different matter might be the fly-by-night full scale gypsy trash truck operation mounting formidable competition to Pinard Waste. But that is not what we are really talking about here. Or is this just another excuse to pick on the ‘ner-do-wells’ amongst us?
Curb shopping, curb crawling, curb surfing, dumpster diving, scavenging, salvage, or simply trash picking…whatever colloquialism one fancies, this ordinance is not only a waste of time and resources, but serves no legitimate public interest.
Other municipalities have such ordinances. And, just who has such ordinances? A cursory web search reveals that California and Massachusetts both have state laws banning scavenging. While other places like Illinois, New York City, Connecticut, and surprisingly, one mid-western town: Edmond Oklahoma. Most are places where our limousine liberal elitist friends call home.
There is no property right in recyclables until possessed. In 1988 the US Supreme Court ruled trash-picking to be legal (CALIFORNIA v. GREENWOOD, 486 U.S. 35 (1988).). Centuries old English Common law also established the right of scavengers to collect and to hold all goods found disposed of to keep or sell. But City Public Works Director Kevin Shepherd tells the Union Leader, “He owns the recyclables once he collects them. It’s important to him,” Sheppard continued, “The bottom line is the city wants to stick by its contractors.” Take note of the operative words, “he” and “his” Shepherd correctly points out that the recyclables are the property of Pinard, once they are collected. So Pinard Waste now asks the city to create an extension of that property right (recyclables).
So, Manchvegas enacts this ordinance, what comes next? Do the smartest people in the city’s employ now enact an ordinance against wayward luddites who scoff at recycling? Those who resist by choosing to throw all their items into the traditional refuse collection stream? And how much pressure for enforcement will be brought to bear? This is, “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”
Let me be perfectly clear. I do not begrudge Pinard Waste Systems their contract, their revenues or their services. Pinard Waste provides a valuable service and employs the people who collect the recyclables. But this ordinance is one that would only benefit Pinard who collects the recyclables under a city contract. And were it not for their contract, recycling would cost us all money. The sum total of this measure is just a waste of time, money and resources.