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.
Peel ready to admit defeat on scavenging problem
(128) Scrapping the suburbs
(93) Empire of scrounge & happy neo year
image: via Wikimedia Commons
One of our interns was riding their bike in a suburban area last spring and scored this virtually unused, clean-as-a-whistle, one-of-a-kind wooden horse – from a garbage pile! We made sure it joined a life list of items found thusly and passed on to urchins and unfortunates. Each time we hear about, or, better yet, participate in one of these little reversals of the waste/consumer ethos it gladdens our hearts here at suburban-poverty.com and gives us hope. It also reminds us of Texas academic Jeff Ferrell and his book (and blog) Empire of Scrounge.
Mr. Ferrell was faced with a lull in his career as a sociologist/criminologist and took to dumpster diving and trash picking on a bike to keep his observation and analytical skills sharp, save money and find cool shit. Empire of Scrounge is the title of the book that came out of the first part of Mr Ferrell’s adventures and the blog serves to update his ongoing adventures. Great stuff, well reccomended to our own readership when we consider the venue at hand. Dallas-Fort Worth is possibly one of this continent’s most serious examples of sprawled, super-suburbanization. It’s population density is only about half that of the Greater Toronto Area, for example.
Often, we are dismissed (sometimes even by ourselves) as doomer wannabes full of pessimism 0with little to offer in the way of solutions. Well, the editor hasn’t gotten his social services worker diploma just yet so this kind of practical, hands-on, exploratory, two-wheeled excellence will have to do for now. Links below, and seriously, have a safe, prosperous, resiliency-enhancing 2012.
Empire of Scrounge
Trespass, Trash & Train