Reading: Watch out for scavengers making money on stolen cans

City: Watch out for scavengers making money on stolen cans

READING, Pa. - You may not think twice when you put your recycling container out for pickup every week, but the city of Reading said it needs homeowners to pay more attention because scavengers are illegally taking aluminum cans from recycling bins.

"Got to do something you know. Every time you look around you get a bill in the mail, and if you do not pay it, they are going to cut your stuff off. So, you got to do what you got to do, you know," said a homeless man in Reading.

But Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer said the can-collecting business is becoming more sophisticated.

"Lately, we have been seeing actual vans driving around. In fact, last week it was three vans that pulled up as I was sitting right on my front porch and they jump out with bags and quick go to your recycling," Spencer said.

Scavengers can get about 49 cents per pound of cans, said Spencer, adding that the city typically collects 100 tons of aluminum each year. 

The mayor is concerned because, if large groups of people are stealing cans, it will decrease the city's budget.

"The money that we do raise we use to reinvest with kids programs in schools, and this depletion and this loss of funds certainly does hamper some of our efforts," said Frank Denbowski, Reading's recycling and solid waste manager.

If the city continues losing revenue, the mayor said there could be a tax increase.

Spencer is encouraging residents not to put their recycling outside the night before. If possible, put it out the morning of collection to cut down on the hours scavengers can grab the aluminum.

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