Environment

Student scavengers

DAVID CUMMING

November 20, 2013

Some university students who scavenge during bulk verge collections to save money are facing an uphill battle against councils that are cancelling the collections.

In a practice often referred to as ‘verging’, students head outside to find things of value or interest in kerbside waste.

The students look for goods they can use, refurbish or sell.

Video game programming student Umar Badat said he started verging after he built his own high-end computer last year.

Some local councils, including the City of Belmont, have a strong stance on scavenging, and do not provide kerbside collections.

Belmont mayor Phil Marks says that having waste piled up on verges is unsightly and promotes bad behaviour.

“Scavenging still continues but is contained mainly within the blue [skip] bins provided,” Mr Marks says.

“A good bin system stops antisocial behaviour and because [bins] can be moved without physical labour there is a much quicker turnaround time.

“The verges are kept in much better order and the public is happier.”

The Shire of Kalamunda recently stopped providing kerbside collections, and like Belmont now provides ratepayers with skip bins instead.

The kerbside collection map

The shire has been contacted for comment but has not responded.

Matthew McGlew, the creator of a community-driven online map which displays dates for kerbside collections in WA, was more forthcoming.

Mr McGlew says Kalamunda’s switch is more likely due to cost than the growing popularity of verging.

“I’m calling [the skip bins] an experiment,” Mr McGlew says.

“If [the bins turn] out cheaper and efficient, expect more councils to follow suit.

“If it ends up costing more than expected or garnering too many complaints, they’ll probably go back to regular verge collections in a year or two.”

Mr McGlew says skip bins on demand are cheaper for councils to operate, but less convenient for residents.

“People with less than a skip bin worth of rubbish will be disposing of it themselves,” he said.

Mr McGlew says verge collection in Kalamunda is more expensive than for other Perth councils because Kalamunda is one of the less densely-populated areas in metropolitan Perth.

He agrees with Mr Marks that ceasing verge collections will not stop scavenging altogether.

Dumpster diving is a term for a reason, and people who want verge [waste] will either look through skips or start visiting the local tip more,” he says.

“Verging is like everything else in life.

“Most people behave politely [but] there’s an unfortunate minority who give the rest a bad name.”

Mr McGlew says the poorly behaved street scavengers bother him and other scavengers as much as they do residents.

“When somebody is throwing rubbish all over the street or cutting all the power cables off appliances just for the copper value it affects us too,” he says.

“If councils are having problems I’d recommend they first try to engage with the community.

“If you want things to change, you have to contact the enthusiasts and if you want to keep an eye on the people who are causing trouble, who better to do it than the people already there?”

Mr Badat says verging is good for the environment because it encourages re-use of scarce resources.

The City of Fremantle is one Perth council that encourages verging.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt says he sees verging as a form of recycling.

Categories: Environment

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