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Warren moves to curtail trash scavenging

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published April 8, 2015

 Warren City Council members have asked city attorneys to explore an ordinance that would ban the unlicensed scavenging of solid waste left at the curb.

Warren City Council members have asked city attorneys to explore an ordinance that would ban the unlicensed scavenging of solid waste left at the curb.

Photo by Brian Louwers

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WARREN — Anyone rummaging through curbside trash for scrap, unwanted goods or anything else may soon need a license to do it in Warren.

Last month, the Warren City Council approved the first step toward an ordinance that would prohibit the unchecked scavenging of residential waste left at the curb.

“I thought it was a good idea to look at this,” City Council President Cecil St. Pierre said. He brought the request before the council on March 10, and it was ultimately referred to the office of City Attorney David Griem.

St. Pierre shared a story from a Warren resident who told him that she argued with a scrap collector intent on taking her child’s metal hockey nets left outside on trash night in December.

Council members also recalled stories about scavengers plucking items soiled by sewage from the garbage after the disastrous flood last summer.

“I know during the flood, you’re 100 percent correct,” Councilwoman Kelly Colegio said. “I’ve had numerous calls from residents. They just feel violated when people go through their garbage. It’s kind of a health hazard when you think about it.”

Griem said his office had drafted a five-page memo summarizing what Warren’s current ordinance does to protect residents from scavenging, and what other cities have done.

He suggested modeling a new ordinance after one already in place in Royal Oak, which prohibits the unregulated transportation of refuse within the city and makes it unlawful for anyone except the property owner or city employees to handle trash or recyclables after they hit the curb.

“It’s not so much the scavenging, but it’s what the residents are left with in their yard after the scavenging,” Griem said. “It’s impossible for the city to properly pick up what’s left, and our residents don’t need to be picking up their own garbage twice.”

Councilman Keith Sadowski asked that licensed scrap dealers be excluded from any ordinance that would ban scavenging.

“I guess I’m a little torn. You do have the extreme situation, people going out, going through trash, ripping up bags, leaving trash on the lots,” Sadowski said. “I know it’s an annoyance to some people. I’ve seen these vehicles time and time again come down the street. If somebody can make money off of it, I say be enterprising, but at the same time, be respectful.”

Council Secretary Scott Stevens asked if the city had sought input from the Michigan Municipal League prior to researching the legal summary.

Griem said the group directed the city to language adopted in Royal Oak and Birmingham, where scavenging of solid waste is included, along with scavenging of recyclables.

Warren’s current ordinance already prohibits the scavenging of recyclable and compostable materials, but Griem said the city should adopt new language that goes beyond adding solid waste to the existing code.

“I think it’s a little bit nebulous just adding solid waste,” Griem said. “We should try to deal with it with a little more specificity.”

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