Watch: Scavengers are picking through household waste and curbing city revenues in the process. Jackson Proskow reports.
TORONTO – Conrad, an admitted scavenger, routs through the cast-off items of Torontonians for a few extra dollars.
“Usually I’m looking for easily returnable bottles or cans,” he said. “It’s called living off the land. You used to have to go into the forest and hunt deer. Now I hunt bottles.”
Conrad, like dozens of other people in Toronto, looks through the garbage and recycling bins for unwanted items such as bottles, or metal that he can refund or sell elsewhere. He’s on a fixed income and says he needs the extra income.
“If you’re on a fixed income, it’s better than going out and stealing money,” he said. “We’re just trying to make a few bucks.”
He says he makes between $5 and $10 a day but sometimes has to deal with angry residents, upset he’s looking through their garbage. But he said, he makes sure to leave the street as clean as he found it.
And scavenging can cost the city money; however, it’s unclear how much. The city is able to recycle, refund or sell some of the products it brings in through garbage pickup but what they don’t bring in, can’t be sold.
Not only is there a loss of revenue though, city officials are also worried about irresponsible disposal of found items.
“The residents trust the city will properly collect the material in an environmentally sound way. When we collect the material we properly manage it,” Vincent Sferrazza, director for Toronto Solid Waste Management said. “When it’s being scavenged it’s uncertain whether the material is being properly managed.
Further, he said, scavenging is illegal.
“The city does have a bylaw that prohibits scavenging of material,” he said. “When material is placed at the curb it does belong to the city of Toronto and as a result, because of that, we can properly manage that material.”
Sferrazza also noted the amount of scavenging varies based on the price of metals on the market. The more expensive metals are, he said, the more scavenging occurs.
© Shaw Media, 2013