USG resolution urges ban on 'recycling gatherers'

USG says people who take recyclables out of campus Dumpsters pose safety threat

Steffi Lau, assistant city editor, diversity writer
Daily Trojan
October 1, 2008

Undergraduate Student Government unveiled a new resolution Tuesday urging the university to crack down on people taking recyclables from campus bins.

The resolution, "Safety Advances for Every Student - Securing Trojan Sustainability (SAFE)," encourages the Board of Trustees to create a policy authorizing Department of Public Safety to prohibit individuals from scouring trash bins on campus. The resolution, the first in a series of safety-related proposals set to be unveiled by USG this fall, is aimed at improving both safety and sustainability efforts on campus.

DPS enforces Los Angeles city law unless otherwise instructed by university policy. Because Los Angeles law currently allows individuals to collect items from unlocked, public trash cans, DPS would need approval from the Trustees to enact the extra security measure.

Residential Senator Henry Pfirrmann, the author of the resolution, said though that the issue was first addressed as a sustainability issue, but it soon became clear that safety was the real issue.

"Due to recent events, safety is now pushed to the forefront," he said. "To go home, I have to walk through an alley and there were times I would have felt safer if there weren't unlocked bins."

According to the resolution, the DPS has statistics demonstrating that a significant number of recycling gatherers have criminal records.

DPS Chief Carey Drayton, who supports the proposal, said though it is difficult to pinpoint the exact correlation between Dumpster diving and campus crime rates, he would rather err on the side of keeping students safe when crafting campus policy.

"I can't speak to the volume that it occurs but one is too many if it's your computer, your office, your purse. ... We don't know how [many] of the people who are coming to campus to take recycling [versus] how many have an arrest record that are longer than our arms," he said.

Drayton agreed that allowing recycling gatherers on campus presents a safety issue, pointing out that people can hide stolen items in shopping carts and plastic bags.

"It provides people an opportunity for people to do something illegal if they choose to," he said.

USG approached the resolution from a sustainability angle as well. The university sorts recyclables out of campus Dumpsters and receptacles. Supporters of the resolution say the high-volume of recylable gathering from USC-owned receptacles prevents the university from accurately gauging the amount and volume of recycling on campus.

"It's important to have a baseline of what we're accomplishing. Students are making the effort to put trash in the recycling bins, but that's not accounted for," said USG Director of University Affairs Owen Caine, who presented the resolution alongside Pfirrmann. "USC is not given credit."

Caine acknowledged that even when recyclables are taken, they still end up in the same place - the recycling center.

"It's a shame that low-income families will no longer be getting the money, but safety comes first," Caine said.

Drayton agreed that, if implemented, the proposal would hurt some people who rely on recyclable gathering to supplement their income, but said distinguishing harmless Dumpster divers from criminals would be almost impossible.

"You have some people who are just doing it and causing no problems for the community and you have other people who are using it as an opportunity to create a window to get in and burglarize a home or steal a bike … because no one is paying attention to them," he said.

The resolution will go to a vote at the USG meeting next Tuesday night.

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