Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski, used under Creative Commons license.
Whether it's a police sting on kids picking daffodils or a dumpster diver handcuffed for "stealing" frozen pizza from the trash, there seems to be a spate of law enforcement over-reaction going on for minor eco-"crimes". The latest is a sorry tale of an operation involving eight officers and a helicopter to recover a games console—allegedly worth less than a dollar in scrap—that was salvaged from a recycling center.$30,000 Operation to Arrest Dumpster Divers
The Guardian reports that two dumpster divers in Gloucester were arrested after reclaiming a video games console and an electric drill that had been dumped at their local recycling center in Gloucester, England. Apparently Owen Gray, 50, and Angela Cubitt, 34, found themselves at the wrong end of a police sting involving eight officers, a helicopter, and costing as much as GB£20,000 (US$30,000) in much-needed police funds:
Gray said: "All they will do with the stuff at the tip is crush it and burn the plastic. I pick up whatever catches my eye and try to fix it. When they let us out, a copper told me it had cost £20,000 to get us nicked and that the items only cost 47p scrap."
Are Some Crimes Not Worth Pursuing?
Of course, as with the case of the man arrested for stealing waste grease to make biodiesel, I am sure there will be those who point out that Gray and Cunbitt were indeed involved in illegal activity. And they would be right. Once items are deposited in a recycling bin, they become the property of the owner of that bin. And the recycling industry relies on a steady stream of scrap to keep it viable.
Common Sense in Protecting Genuine Salvage
Nevertheless, one can't help but think that common sense should be applied here. If individuals see perfectly usable items that can be reclaimed, restored and upcycled, surely it is in all of our interests to get the highest value use out of those precious resources? Maybe those caught salvaging should be asked to prove that they do indeed intend to fix their liberated item? Or maybe recyclers should be asked to set up a system for separating and reselling/distributing materials with the potential for reuse?
Whatever the answer to promoting reuse and still protecting the recycling industry turns out to be, there is certainly a case to be made that a helicopter response is both wasteful and unnecessary. (Not to mention extraordinarily polluting!)