Assemblywoman Fiona Ma: Recycling Theft

My office has received countless complaints from neighbors in the 12th Assembly District who have been awakened in the middle of the night by people rummaging through recycling bins.

Some of you may be shocked to learn that many of these poachers are part of very well-organized operations that make large profits from stealing CRV materials, such as aluminum cans and glass bottles. In San Francisco and cities across the state, thieves, who operate as organized fleets, wake residents, throw unwanted materials on the ground, and trespass on private property.

Their theft can also increase garbage rates and the risk of identity theft. The poaching rings use large trucks that are overloaded with recycled materials and are then driven to a local junk dealer to get cash for the materials. CRV containers are not the only materials being targeted. Newspaper stands are also common targets for poaching rings.

In the East Bay, free weekly newspapers have been routinely targeted by thieves. Delivery trucks will drop off bundles of newspapers only to have them taken and thrown in the back of large trucks that follow closely behind.

I have introduced legislation in response to this growing trend and I am happy to report that it successfully passed the Assembly with bipartisan support last month. Assembly Bill 1778, which will be heard in the Senate this month, provides law enforcement with valuable record-keeping information to investigate these crime rings.╩ Specifically, the bill requires recyclers to obtain identifying information from individuals who bring in large quantities ($50 or more) of CRV recyclables and newspapers.

The bill will also require that payments of $50 or more be made by check. ╩Although AB 1778 was opposed by certain recycling companies that fought record-keeping requirements, representatives from local recycler Norcal joined with me to support the bill.

During discussions in the Assembly, there was some confusion about the quantity of materials that would have to be recycled. The $50 threshold is equal to 34 pounds of aluminum - the equivalent of 1,000 cans. ╩This bill does not interfere with the typical recycling load and I worked closely with homeless advocates to ensure that someone trying to make a living would not be impacted by the provisions of the bill.

However, there is simply no excuse for someone to bring in thousands of cans and no identification, and walk out with cash. ╩If passed by the Senate and signed by the governor, the law would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma is the majority whip at the California Assembly.