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Thou shall not steal garbage
Manteca may outlaw rifling thru trash containers
TOTERS1 11-14-14
It is currently illegal to go through blue Toters looking for recyclables. A proposed ordinance will also outlaw getting into garbage Toters and dumpsters. - photo by HIME ROMERO/ The Bulletin

It may soon be illegal to enter or take from garbage containers in Manteca.

The City Council on Tuesday will consider adopting such an ordinance to mirror a similar one in place for recyclables.

 The proposed ordinance would:

umake garbage placed at a designated collection location such as inside a closure and at curbside or in an alley the property of the City of Manteca.

umake it unlawful for any person other than city personnel to pick up or collect any garbage materials from a designed collection location.

uallow inhabitants of businesses or residential dwellings to retain the right to remove garbage materials from a designated collection location that they have personally placed there.

urequire all garbage materials to be placed in designate containers approved by the director of Public Works.

urequire cardboard containers — unless they are placed in approved containers — to be flattened and baled prior to placement outside buildings.

ureinforce the city’s exclusive rights to garbage collection.

umake violation of the ordinance a misdemeanor.

While the municipal law would apply to everyone, it was spurred in part by growing issues with the homeless.

Police Chief Nick Obligacion researched what other cities have done when faced with quality of life concerns involving parks and their respective communities as a whole. Other cities have found prohibiting unlawful entering or taking from garbage containers can improve the quality of life.

 The homeless and other scavengers not only rifle through blue Toters looking for recyclables but they do the same in brown garbage Toters. Sometimes they may fish for food but most of the time they are after recyclables.

They do the same for commercial trash bins. Restaurants have to deal with debris being thrown out as people search for food. It has gotten so bad that several restaurants dumped buffet line options since any leftover food would go into the city dumpsters and usually resulted in large messes left behind their places of business.

The homeless in particular snag large cardboard boxes behind furniture stores for makeshift shelters.

They are usually taken to nearby private property without permission and used to set up temporary encampments.

The city has started placing no trespassing signs outside of commercial dumpster enclosures. Homeless often sleep in the dumpsters containing recyclables.

Lockable Toters

may be solution

Complaints against the homeless dumping trash out of Toters and littering neighborhood streets in search of recyclables prompted the city to launch a pilot program using locked residential Toters.

Some 100 blue Toters with locks are being tested throughout Manteca. They are being used on one route for a period then moved elsewhere.

The pilot program is being driven by a surge in complaints from residents who say the homeless and others scavenging through their Toters are littering streets with debris. Such complaints have shot up about 90 percent in the past year at about the same time the number of homeless people in Manteca increased.

Rexie LeStrange, who oversees Manteca’s solid waste operations, has said residents often call up the city and accuse refuse truck drivers of making the mess which she says isn’t the case.

LeStrange noted besides the homeless and other scavengers dumping the contents of both blue and brown Toters on the ground and leaving them in their search for recyclables they also have been entering backyards to access Toters.

In many cases they contaminate the remaining recyclables in the blue Toters that do not have California redemption value with garbage from the brown Toters making it impossible for the city to recycle the materials.

By contaminating recyclables, the city is forced to bury them at a landfill.

If the field testing is successful, the city will start phasing in the lockable Toters throughout Manteca. Existing Toters would be either sold to other agencies or ground up and recycled.

The reason the homeless go through Toters is in a search for money in the form of containers for commodities such as soft drinks, energy drinks, water, and juices that have California redemption value of a nickel apiece.

If a Manteca household tossed out 20 such containers a week — the equivalent of three six packs of soda and two juice bottles — it represents $1 in redeemable value. Multiply that by Manteca’s households and it represents $24,000 a week of potential money for the homeless or $1,248,000 a year. Of course, not all recyclables are tossed in Toters.

The new Toters will work only if residents remember to lock them before placing them at curbside.

They do not need to be unlocked, however, for city crews to dump them in refuse trucks.

The system works on gravity. When the Toter is lifted up and is turned around 180 degrees, the lid opens and the recyclables fallout.

LeStrange said that it is extremely hard for one person to do when a Toter is loaded. They can turn it sideways and such but can’t get the lid to open.

Locked Toters could also help cut down on identity theft. Rummaging through Toters is still the main source of ID theft for criminals operating in the Manteca area.

The City Council meets on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St.