The Recycling Scavengers of Brooklyn Heights

Last year, we wrote about Mettle, a film about folks who go through garbage cans looking for metal and other recyclables to sell. While its Kickstarter campaign didn’t hit its goal, the issue is still very much alive.

Each week in Brooklyn Heights, right before recycling days, a ragtag crew of mettlers rifle through private garbage cans in search of recyclable cans and bottles. You’ve seen them – folks with pushcarts overflowing with empties of Poland Spring, Coke, Pepsi, etc. Over the weekend, we even spotted an urban prospector in Brooklyn Bridge Park. All this despite the fact that it’s illegal in New York City and violators could face up to $10,000 in fines.

One of the more off-putting byproducts of their weekly quests is the trail of disheveled garbage cans and dumped out trash they leave in their wake.

So, where do you fall on this topic? Are they scavengers who should be thrown in jail or folks who are just trying to get by and that we should just leave alone and accept as part of living in the beautiful mosaic that is New York City? Comment away!

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  • Robert

    They make a lot of noise going through bottles late at night and they often create a mess, which is not sanitary. It’s annoying having to clean up after them. The police should enforce the law if there is one prohibiting this kind of behavior.

  • BrooklynCoffeeLover

    It is technically against the law, but the police have more important things to worry about right now I believe.

  • Quinn Raymond

    I live on the first floor facing the street, and this has never been a problem for us. Please give them a break.

  • Robin

    These guys and gals work incredibly hard to make a living, doing a job that most of us wouldn’t. They also save recyclables from heading to the dump. I think they’re a necessary, unavoidable part of city life.

  • Joanne Haire

    Never been a problem for me, either. I even separate out what they can recycle.

  • Jorale-man

    While I agree that the rummaging noise and occasional mess is annoying, these people have enough problems and I’m sure they’d rather be doing something else. Life has dealt them a bad hand for whatever reason. But if there are steps homeowners can take to reduce the mess side-effects that would be worth discussing.

  • Andrew Porter

    Where do you live, Robin? There is no “dump” here in NYC—recyclables are separated out, and the city makes money from selling them. By swiping these items before the Sanitation Dept. can collect them, these people are stealing.

    Don’t forget the metal stealer who stole a multi-thousand dollar scooter owned by a handicapped man who lives on Hicks Street, simply because he thought it was “abandoned”.