Urban Mining: Philadelphia is Losing its Manhole Covers


Installing lock on manhole cover; Jessica Kourkounis for The New York Times

It is happening everywhere; the price of metals has climbed so high that everything that isn't nailed down (and a lot that is) is being stolen and "recycled." In Philadelphia, over 2500 manholes and sewer grates have disappeared in the past year, compared to the previous average of 100. People are falling into the holes; "They used to say the streets around here will swallow you up, but they were talking about drugs and guns." Finally a city worker developed a way to lock them from the inside.

Ian Urbina writes in the New York Times about other cities:

"Phoenix has lost more than 160 of its manhole covers and street storm drains this year, up from 10 last year.

More than 80 drains and manhole covers have been stolen in Long Beach, Calif., this year and at least two local car owners who drove over the open chambers have filed claims against the city.

Starting last year, such thefts in Cleveland, Memphis, Miami and Milwaukee have more than doubled compared with other years, although New York reports no such increase.

"We have had our share of copper theft," said Michael S. Clendenin, a spokesman for Con Edison in New York. But "New Yorkers are a pretty alert bunch and anyone trying to tuck a manhole under their arm in Times Square would look pretty suspicious." He added that the utility's covers weighed 300 pounds. ::New York Times

In Cherry Hill, New Jersey, a man stole a statue valued at half a million dollars, cut it up and sold it for scrap in Camden. Total scrap value: $ 4,000. ::Courier Post

TreeHugger on "Recycling"

Peak Metal on Planet Green
Platinum Theft : More On Recycling's Dark Side
Recycling is Hot
Meth Heads Go For Recycling

Tags: Cities | Philadelphia | Poverty | Recycled Building Materials