ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A completely melted recycle bin on a street curb in Albuquerque is just one of the latest examples of an ongoing problem of damaged and stolen waste bins.
“I came out, it was probably about 10 o’clock at night, and it was on fire. The fire department was here putting it out,” Jonathan Justus said. “Might have been accidental, might have been arson, I’m not sure.”
Justus is just one of the thousands of people in Albuquerque whose waste bins have been either damaged or stolen.
“I’ve had problems with this one and within the last six months, I had an additional one stolen. It’s just more of a nuisance., I wasn’t too shocked by it though,” Justus said.
According to the city’s solid waste department, about 6,310 recycle and waste bins were damaged last year. There were also about 962 bins stolen, 34 of them stolen a second time.
“It’s surprising that number, that number’s pretty alarming,” Justus said. “It sounds like a lot of dollars involved.”
The city budgets about $500,000 each year to replace and repair stolen, damaged or old waste bins.
“If it’s something that’s damaged just by normal wear and tear, it’s just something that happens. It’s part of our daily routine. If it’s damaged because people are damaging them, it is a little disheartening just because we have to replace that cart,” Matthew Whelan, Director of Solid Waste for the City of Albuquerque, said.
While Whelan said it’s a small percentage of their customers who experience stolen and damaged carts, some customers said the city should do more to stop the problem.
“I think since there is such a large number being stolen or damaged, that the city should really look into trying to figure out how to take care of this problem and minimize it in the future,” Justus said.
Whelan said the department does what it can to prevent bins from being stolen. Each bin has an ID on it, so if it is found somewhere, it can be returned to the home it belongs to.
If a trash or recycle bin is stolen, the city will replace it the first time. It will cost the customer about $50 to replace a stolen cart every time after.
Whelan said the best way to prevent a stolen cart is to keep it behind a locked gate or garage and to always bring it off the street immediately after the waste is collected.
Right now, because of intentional damage and ordinary ‘wear and tear,’ the city has about 100,000 carts that are needing to be replaced.