Woodtock residents have complained about the mess left behind by bin pickers, but the City says there’s little it can do about the problem.
Woodstock resident Samatha Taylor says she’s forced to pick up after the bin pickers every week.
“One understands they are trying to make a living or feed their families, but it comes at a cost. The first few weeks, you tend to overlook it, but then it becomes a norm and it gets worse,” she said.
An appeal to a woman to clean up after she had been through her bin had been met with threats, she said.
“I respectfully asked her just to clean the area, as she was halfway into the refuse bin, throwing things out. She angrily said that I was not even using the dirt no more and she could not understand why I would complain, but she did not want to understand that she was creating a huge mess on the street,” Ms Taylor said.
“Before she left, without cleaning up, she turned around and said that I am lucky she is not scratching in my house for things and maybe she should come and do so.”
Two roads away, Shafiek Hill said he had been locked in a battle with “bin scratchers” for nearly two years. He even resorted to locking his bin at one point, until someone nicked the padlock.
Mr Hill said he had complained several times to the City but had been told the problem was hard to monitor.
“We take our rubbish outside only for it to be thrown across the pavement and streets. I get that some of the items might be of value and could put a bread on their table, but do they really have to create such havoc?”
In recent months, he has kept his bin locked and behind closed doors, only wheeling it out when he hears the garbage truck coming.
“When you arrive outside, there is still a mess around the refuse bins, but as long as it’s not my mess. I have cleaned up time after time, but just decided that it needs to stop. If the council won’t do anything about it, I will, because it saves me the time and effort,” Mr Hill said.
The City’s integrated waste management policy says unauthorised persons who interfere with waste on City property can be fined. But it is hard to fine someone without a fixed address.
Suzette Little, mayoral committee member for area north, said that while law enforcement officers acted as a deterrent they could not be everywhere and their presence tended to only shift the problem to the next suburb.
“In light of these factors, it is advised that members of the public who witness these actions should encourage people who are rummaging through the bins to clean the area before they leave.”
Ms Little said bin picking reflected “the need that exists in society”. Poverty forced people to turn to others rubbish as a means of survival.
The bin pickers could be fined, however, for illegal dumping or littering if they left a mess behind.
Ms Little said litter clearing and street cleaning were “not the primary responsibility” of the City garbage collectors. “However, they are equipped with gloves, spades and brooms to clean up around the bins.”
She suggested residents place food and recyclables on top of their bins to prevent people going through them.
Complaints can be logged at 086 010 3089.