There's a fine legal line between finders keepers, and curbside theft. However, it's a line that the City of College Station says some are crossing.
Wednesday, the city issued a serious warning to those looking to make a buck off curbside trash: Mess with someone's recyclables, and be prepared to pay hundreds of dollars in fines.
"It costs us money to recycle, it costs the city money to recycle. So I try to take advantage of it," Erika Ervin said.
Ervin takes her role in making the Earth a greener place very seriously. She says recycling plays a big part in that.
Once a week, she takes a bag full of the recyclable goods and drops them off at the curb thinking that's where they'll stay until the city comes by to pick them up.
But with metal prices at an all-time high, the City of College Station says some thieves are cashing in on their aluminum cans.
"It's worth the time to these people to waste gas and pick these cans up because they can still make a living by stealing cans," Heather Woolwine with the City of College Station Recycling Program said.
That's right, taking a bag of cans from someone else's curb is considered illegal.
"The minute it hits the curb, it becomes the city's property," Woolwine said.
"A lot of people don't understand what the program is all about," Lt. Craig Anderson with College Station Police Department said. "So they just see trash on the side of the road, and are like I'm going to get those cans."
So as more and more bags go missing from these College Station streets, the more the recycling program suffers.
"When you take these cans, it does take away our funds for other programs, cell phone recycling, battery recycling. So it's hurting our program as a whole," Woolwine said.
That's why residents like Erika say they're now keeping a watchful eye out for would be-thieves.
"If they were pilfering through my recyclable stuff, I would definitely ask them to leave and I would call the city immediately," Ervin said.
College Station police say they issue warnings the first time someone is caught taking recyclables, but a second offense could cost you a $500 fine.
City officials say College Station isn't the first to implement this type of city ordinance.They say Corpus Christi and Fort Worth have similar programs.
Officials with the City of College Station are asking that anyone who sees someone take recyclables to report it to one of the following:
City of College Station Code Enforcement: 764-6363 or online at www.cstx.gov/recycle
College Station's ordinance reads as follows:
XIII. OWNERSHIP OF RECYCLABLES
At any time after recyclable commodities have been placed outside for collection, such recyclable commodities shall be considered transferred to CITY for the purpose of sale or other disposal pursuant to the terms of this Agreement. Only the customer who placed said recyclable commodities outside for collection may take back such materials as the customer desires until such recyclable commodities have been collected by CONTRACTOR. If there is a problem with the recyclable commodities placed out for collection, the CONTRACTOR shall notify the customer about the problem by leaving a door tag indicating the problem. At the time that the recyclables are collected by the CONTRACTOR, ownership of said recyclables shall transfer
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