The saying used to be “cash is trash”. Now, with 15 million unemployed willing to do anything for a buck, the correct wording is “trash is cash”.

In fact, trash is so much cash that New York City is ticketing and impounding the vehicles of unauthorized persons hauling away discarded trash left in driveways.

Please consider Big Appliances Set Out as Trash Are Vanishing, Puzzling City

Over the last several months, 22,741 New Yorkers contacted the city’s Department of Sanitation and arranged for the pickup of refrigerators, air-conditioners and freezers. In more than 11,000 instances, the machines vanished before sanitation workers arrived in their white trucks to pick them up.

The sheer magnitude of the thefts — 11,528 appliances, to be precise — over a relatively brief period suggests to some in city government and the recycling industry that a more organized enterprise may be at work as well.

Deepening the mystery, these were neither the latest Sub Zero behemoths, sleek Bosch nor stylish retro Smeg refrigerators. They were garbage, quite literally — discarded appliances left at the curb for pickup by the Sanitation Department.

And while the value of one discarded appliance may seem marginal at best, in the scrap industry, the fluctuations of commodity prices and volume add up to real money.

Indeed, the big loser in what might be called New York’s Appliances Caper appears to be a multinational recycling conglomerate, a subsidiary of which has a large city contract to recycle the hundreds of thousands of tons of metal, glass and plastic generated each year by New Yorkers, including bulk metal, like appliances.

In response, the officers have stepped up their enforcement, Inspector D’Angelo said, and while the theft of curbside recyclables warrants only a summons, the sanitation officers impound the vehicles and their cargo — frequently a jumbled load of refrigerators, air-conditioners, Venetian blinds, office partitions and stoves.

This year through Dec. 1, the task force has seized more than 270 vehicles, according to records provided by the department. But the small force does not have the resources either to track the thieves to the scrapyards where they sell their haul or to determine whether there are connections among any of the people.

But on most nights, the officers move through the city neighborhoods in small teams, working in plain clothes and unmarked cars, circling block after block in the areas they know provide good hunting for their targets, lying in wait and then pouncing, with lights and sirens, when they see someone remove material from curbside, which under law belongs to the city.

Notice the insanity of it all. How much does it cost to keep teams of undercover police in plain clothes and unmarked cars working round the clock to prevent the “theft” of items people are throwing away?

The first thing to do is rework the trash collection contract so that the city is not responsible for protecting discarded trash. The second thing to do is fire a bunch of clearly unneeded trash protection police. The third thing to do is to put city garbage collection out for bid, and grant that contract to to the lowest qualified bidder.

The city’s response is economic madness.

Mike “Mish” Shedlock
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