Thieves stealing recyclables from homes

The trash you put out for pick up may no longer be safe from the hands of thieves. One local garbage company is dealing with people stealing bags of recyclables before they even have the chance to load it on their trucks.

“They are going through, driving by, throwing it in the back of their truck and speeding off,” said Henry Valkema, owner of Michiana Recycling and Disposal.

The company’s customers put their recyclable materials into bright yellow bags next to their trash bins. But, many are waking up to find that those yellow bags are gone long before a garbage truck has come through their neighborhood.

“They take the aluminum cans, they go to a scrap yard and they are getting a certain amount of cents per pound,” Valkema said.

Michiana Recycling and Disposal services a large area ranging from New Buffalo, Mich. to Elkhart, Ind. Valkema said the theft problem is widespread.

“We have heard of it in the rural areas, but we hear it more around the lakes or cities where you have a greater density of housing,” he said.

Less yellow bags being picked up by Michiana trucks could put jobs in jeopardy.

“We employ people to pull recycling out of waste,” Valkema said. “Our business structure is we get paid for the paper and recycling to pay their wages. Ultimately, they are stealing their jobs and they are stealing recycling from us.”

Even the employees are starting to notice the drop in yellow bags coming through the facility.

“I look at my guys like ‘are you dumping the bags out or are you missing them?’ and they are like ‘no, we are not dumping them out, they are just not coming in,’” said Brad Rock, operations manager at Michiana Recycling.

And, it is a problem that could hurt the company in the long-run.

“Economically, recycling often is not a winner,” Valkema said. “But, when you have someone stealing youe recycling, they make it a loser. It hurts us.”

Valkema has contacted multiple County Sheriff’s Departments. To find these thieves, authorities need a license plate number or vehicle description. Valkema said he is offering a free year of trash pick up to anyone who comes forward with information that leads to an arrest.

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