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Curbing trash divers depends on citizens
The 18-foot-round Doughboy pool is finally gone from my backyard.

It served my family well since 1997 but one by one as the kids left home, it was used less and less. Cleaning it was both expensive and a chore with the growth of trees forever dropping debris in the water. When it just would never clear up a summer ago, I decided to drain it before it become a breeding ground for mosquitos. After all, West Nile Virus is a growing problem. The shell of the pool, however, stood for about 10 months, nagging me to take it down.

If you think putting up a Doughboy is a major pain, try taking one down - in triple-digit heat. Aside from letting go of all the good memories we had in it, it was hard to physically dismantle it myself. I was left with metal columns, top and bottom rails and a lot of wall sheet metal.

Instead of taking it to the dump, I was told to sell it for scrap metal and was given the name of a good scrapper in Modesto. I heaved it all in the back of the pickup and hauled it in.

I was introduced to a whole new world of metal scrapping.

Some pretty scruffy characters were offloading all types of metal into large thick-walled containers so heavy that could only be moved by use of a forklift. All kinds of metals were being separated and tossed. All of mine was tin, the same material used to can tuna. Still, it was worth eight cents a pound and I had about 210 pounds in bona fide Doughboy pool tin. That came to a total pay out of $16.80. Kind of bad when you consider I paid $1,500 for the pool but far better than paying Gilton to take it off my hands.

I spoke to two men with worn faces, missing teeth and dirty clothes who were eager to scan my inventory to tell me what I had coming to me at the pay-out window. They make a meager living at scrapping metal.

A third man told me that he makes about $200 recycling metal each week. When I asked where he got the metal he told me that he goes door-to-door asking if anyone had any junk metal they want to give up. That's a tough way to make $800 a month but kudos to him for making money while helping others clean up their property. I seriously doubt, however, if he only takes metal he has permission to take.

Last week Vice Mayor Ken Lane mentioned the growing trend of "guys on bikes" rummaging through neighborhoods to take things of value. There's the ones who help themselves to your trash and then others who help themselves in your garage.

No doubt, many of the ones rifling through your cans are merely looking for recyclables, an aluminum can or CA redemption value plastic water bottles. It's an uncomfortable feeling, Lane notes, to see someone helping themselves to your garbage, which despite being "garbage" is really rather personal. No one wants a garbage diver wading through ear-waxed Q-Tips, snotty tissues, junk mail, discarded underwear and other things to dig out a plastic bottle. And who is to say that the "dumpster diver" isn't looking for financial records or unsolicited credit card junk mail offers to be used in ID theft? Then there is the issue that trash rummagers ends up with spillage, which adds to the trash already deliberately thrown by people who see nothing wrong with throwing down candy containers or used soda cups.

Lane noted that one Ceres resident who left his garbage door open ended up losing a ladder. It was no surprise that Lane saw a number of ladders which had been cashed in for metal when he visited a local recycler.

Mayor Chris Vierra also reported someone rifling through his neighbor's can in what is an upperscale neighborhood.

Personally, I dislike seeing dumpster diving purely because it seems like an activity that should be beneath a person's dignity. I understand people who have no job skills who must resort to desperate measures to get cash. But I'd rather see a recycler do his thing than a thief do his.

Unfortunately it's hard to differentiate between the two. The council is concerned about what's going on and rightfully so. I hope the council doesn't add more laws when this seems to be a problem that can be handled directly by the community themselves.

Obviously citizens should buy a shredder and shred every bit of financial junk mail so they can't be retrieved and abused. They can close their garage doors and lock side gates. They can minimize the time their cans are at the curb, if possible only setting them out just before the trucks are to arrive instead of overnight. Then there is always politely telling the guys at your can that they are wasting their time since you have no CRV recyclables in there.

I am sure there are other ideas in the community which could be shared in the Courier.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know at