Friday, June 12, 2009

One Man's Trash Is...One Town's Cash?

With the economy against the ropes, it's no surprise municipalities left and right are tightening their fiscal belts; but in some places, things are getting a little desperate. Take the Cook County suburb of Evanston (pop. 74,360), which is now looking into regulating scrap haulers because the city loses money (normally charged to homeowners) every time a scrap hauler nabs an item before the city has a chance to pick it up. Starting at $25 a pop, the city last year generated an impressive $89,000 that way.

Here's my take: these so-called "rogue haulers" are doing the city and its neighborhoods a valuable service, so there's no need to regulate them. Rather than leave that refrigerator rusting in the alley (where it can pose a danger to kids and shelter rodents and other pests) in the hopes that a city employee will eventually get around to picking it up, why not notify AMVETS (800-732-1708 for pick-ups in IL) or just pick a scrapper out of the phone book, give them a call and let them pick it up for free? I'm all for supporting city government, but I think there are probably better ways to fill the budget gaps.

Granted, there may be a few bad apples in the bunch—haulers that steal unattended items and/or rifle through recycling bins for scrap metal—but there has to be a way to isolate them without taking a bite out of business for those haulers willing to play by the rules. I wonder if Evanston's beef has more to do with demographics, as many of the haulers come from downtown and drive trucks that don't exactly add to the pleasant suburban aesthetic.

I admit, I may be speaking too soon; the news indicates only that officials are looking into "regulating" the haulers, so there's still a chance Evanston will find a fair compromise...at the same time, it's clearly about money, and that's usually when the fights start to get nasty. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed.

In the meantime, our own little scavenging operation is humming along. I just picked up a large, two-drawer coffee table from our alley for my sister-in-law. Even after a slight rain, it was easy to spruce up with some furniture oil and a little lubrication of the wood sliders. (I'll post a pic next week. I wish I had the foresight to take a snap before I put my refurbishing skills to use on it so you could see the "before and after" effect).

For more on the issue of Evanston's trash, here's an editorial that falls on my side of the issue. Feel free to get in on the discussion here if you have a viewpoint you'd like to express.

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