Usually around Moving Day, beater pickup trucks roam Chicagoland's alleys, targeting discarded appliances and furniture. These scavengers can often be an asset, hauling away garbage that is difficult to clear.
"They go around in a $50 truck and try to make a living," Larry Williams, owner of L&W Scrap Metals in Harwood Heights, told the Tribune. "Sometimes they go into very rough areas of the city. Who likes doing that?"
But now Evanston wants to do away with the "junk pirates" or at least regulate them.
"We want to establish some controls over them," said Suzette Eggleston, superintendent of streets and sanitation.
You see, every time one of those freelance haulers picks up a discarded lawnmower, the city loses money. Homeowners are normally charged a $25 pickup fee that is tacked on to their water bills. Last year, Evanston collected $89,000 via these fees.
But while the city would like to license the scavengers, they're not quite sure how to do it. After all, most of the junk collectors aren't from Evanston and don't work on a regular schedule.
And not everyone thinks that regulating the scavengers is a good idea.
"Scrappers are costing the taxpayers nothing," said Adam Labkon of General Iron Industries. "They are wonderful and are providing a service to the community. If you leave a hot water heater in an alley, a scrapper will find it within a couple of hours. It might take a city a week to come along and pick it up."
What do you think: should anyone be allowed to pick up large discarded items? Leave your thoughts and comments below.
Matt Bartosik is the editor of Off the Rocks' next issue and a "between blogs" blogger.