At the May 14 Community Development Committee, Willow Grove resident Nick Scull described an all-too-familiar scene.
According to Scull, after acquiring the proper permits to place his electronic recyclable for the township’s recycling pickup, he had some trouble keeping his recycling on his property.
“At four-O’clock I heard some noise and here’s a guy who’s loading my computer into his truck,” Scull recounted before the committee. “And, I’m thinking, I paid 20 bucks for a permit for this, because I don’t want it to end up in a landfill, and I wanted to make sure that it gets recycled properly.”
Scull went on to explain to the individual, while he didn’t want to deprive him of his income, Scull also didn’t want his electronic recyclables to not be processed correctly and enviornmentally safe; after which the individual and his truck went away.
“I went back in the house, and an hour later, there was another guy,” Scull said, this time taking the electronic recyclable back into his home and set it out again in time for the early-morning pickup.
“What you’re dealing with is a fellow that’s a salvage person that’s essentially working out of the back of his pick up truck,” Ward 4 commissioner, Joe Lavalle, who is also the chairperson of the committee, said.
According to Lavalle, individuals involved with salvaging waste and recyclables can strip precious metals out of such items, particularly larger appliances, and make a profit.
Scull had suggested licensing the salvagers so that the township could also coordinate the process and share in the salvage profit.
“The scale that we’re dealing with in the township, I would suspect, is not a large enough scale to justify the accumulation and stripping of these items for then resale and salvage,” Lavalle responded.
Ward 2 commissioner Kevin Spearing, also on the committee, agreed that the township involving itself with salvaging would likely not be profitable, and the coordination of such a township process might actually cost more than any expected salvaging profits.
Spearing also agreed with Scull in that township residents should be concerned about protecting the environment by participating in the township’s recycling program.
“And, kudos to Nick Scull for fighting those guys off for protecting the environment,” Spearing said, adding some humor to his comment.
What is Fair Gain?
The third member of the committee, Ward 5 commissioner Kip McFatridge brought up the point whether or not the salvaging was legal, asking, “What is Fair Gain?”
“If you abandon something, essentially, you’re giving it away,” Kate Harper, township solicitor said.
She said that legally, if a homeowner discards materials, individuals participating in salvaging have a right to come along and take the items.
“Now, you have the issue of where’s he's going to dump it,” Harper said, referring to materials after the salvaging process. “Legally, you’ve given up the entitlement.”
She further explained that the permit residents pay for township recycling pickup goes toward the township service, however residents leaving their trash out on trash day should have a reasonable expectation that their former possessions will be taken away. In the same vein, individuals participating in salvaging also have that same reasonable expectation.
She added that Pennsylvania passed a law last year, in which consumers can return certain electronic items back to private sector manufacturers and retailers for recycling, called the “e-waste” recycling program.
Also, according to Harper, the township does receive a small “tipping fee” from the county in return for collecting and sending its recyclables to county facilities.
According to township manager David Dodies, the township is currently following all state regulations concerning the procedures of picking up recyclable material.
“It’s not a money-making operation for the township,” Dodies said of the township’s recycling program. “We’re doing the right thing environmentally. We’re doing what we should do.”
Another resident, former school board member Don Warner, who also spoke during the committee meeting, suggested that the township be wary of salvagers, as to avoid cases of identity theft when sifting through the curbside refuse.
According to Harper, should the township want to regulate or prosecute individuals participating in salvaging, an ordinance change would be required.
Lavalle suggested a study may be needed to figure out if the township is losing any revenues from the salvaging, and the committee will entertain further discussion on the legality of the act in future meetings.
“That’s the most discussion we’ve had on that subject in quite some time,” Lavalle said.
While extensive information about trash pickup can be found in the Township newsletters, the Township Website also states that permits are required to recycle large metal items and electronics, otherwise referred to by the township as “E-Cycling.”
Such permits may be obtained at the township’s receptionist’s desk during township hours, and may range in fees from $1 - $30 per item.
Items listed on the website include, but are not limited to:
- TVs (TVs over 50-inches are the owner’s responsibility)
- Bed Springs
- Hot Water Heaters
For more information about the township’s “E-cycling” program, call 215-659-3100.