Don DalFonso, a Buffalo resident who collects scrap metal, was recently cited by the Town of Tonawanda for “interference with waste material set out for collection.” The City of Buffalo and several surrounding suburbs have ordinances that not only prohibit unauthorized removal of trash, but go as far as to establish the municipality as owner, once trash and recyclables are placed in the public right of way.

As reported in the Buffalo News according to Lt. Nicholas Bado of the Tonawanda Police Department, “It’s a quality-of-life issue,” citing disturbances caused by the collectors’ vehicles and the mess they sometimes leave behind after picking through the piles.Further, “We have been able to link people allegedly out garbage picking to other crimes,” he said. “It’s something we do keep an eye on.” Recycling is also a source of revenue for many municipalities.

In Tonawanda Penalties begin with a written warning. For a second violation within 12 months, there’s a fine of $50, that increases with each subsequent violation within the same 12-month period.

DalFonso’s position is “You talk to the people who put [recyclables] out – they don’t care who gets it,”. “Those ordinances are a joke.”

Personally, garbage pickers have never bothered me. If they can reuse or sell an item that has been thrown out more power to them. DalFonso and other garbage pickers are simply trying to survive in tough economic times by looking to make a few bucks.

Should garbage picking be illegal? What do you think?