Who owns your recycling?

Recyclable materials that you have at your home or work – cans, bottles, paper, cardboard, and other things – belong to you. When you buy a bag of groceries, not only do you buy the contents, you buy the cans and bottles too. When those cans and bottles are empty, they’re yours.

You may choose to take your cans and bottles to a recycling buyback center and be paid for their California Redemption Value (CRV) or you may choose to put your recyclables in the blue cart from Northern Recycling & Waste Services (NRWS) and leave it at the curb for pickup. Once those materials are in the blue cart and taken to the curb, only you or NRWS have the right to remove them. The recyclables have value, and the revenue NRWS receives from processing recyclables is taken into consideration when garbage collection rates are set.

Why is theft of recyclables a problem?

Unfortunately, some people think it’s okay to steal recyclables from blue carts or commercial recycling bins at businesses. Normally the thieves target aluminum and other higher value materials, but may take glass and other items as well. Recycling thieves often leave a mess because they are not accountable to anyone. So, recyclables are being stolen, but you may say “Why should I care?”

The answer is this: over time, the value of stolen materials adds up. This represents a loss of revenue for NRWS, which in time could lead to an increase in the collection rates we all pay. For ratepayers, losing all the revenue from the sale of recyclables would result in an immediate 10-20% rate increase.

What should I do if I see someone stealing recyclables out the NRWS container?

Don’t look the other way. If you know recyclables are being stolen, please report the theft to the non-emergency police phone line at 872-6241. If you have the opportunity, take a picture of the thief, jot down a license plate number or provide a description – every piece of information helps. Remember, it may make a difference in your bank account.