An old school-new economy moment appears daily in Peel, the large mostly suburban region west of Greater Toronto. Citizens there arrange to have white goods picked up for a small fee. Scavengers get the goods first – dead washers, defunct dryers, icky old ovens – for some quick cash. The result has become something of a by-law enforcement and financial inconvenience for Peel.
Peel homeowners arranged for dead appliance pickup 2,812 times in 2012 and yet the firm contracted to do the work of removal made only 1,025 pickups. Professional scavengers cruising in beater vans and pickups throughout the day and into the night are intercepting literally tons of material. The discarded appliances are sold for scrap that would have returned revenue to the regional government to cover the costs of despatching contractors to lift appliances.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time in the GTA or any other large urban-suburban region to encounter scavenging. Appliance removal generates some statistics but scavenging remains an imponderable, really. Yet we see that for many the costs and incentives are balanced in favour of it. Scavenger trucks often ramble by the suburban-poverty.com office complex between mid afternoon and maybe one in the morning. The backs are piled with stuff, everything from lawn mowers, cast aluminium barbecue lids, unwanted metal lawn furniture, broken office chairs, to TV sets. Often a bed frame or two are employed to extend the height to which an old pickup truck can be stacked with scrap metal objects.
image: via Wikimedia Commons