Who is stealing New York's...trash? No, really. That's the question the Times ponders today in a piece on the many appliances that New Yorkers have put on the street and reported to the Department of Sanitation only to see them disappear before crews can arrive to remove them. Since July 11,528 of the 22,741 refrigerators, air-conditioners and freezers reported have gone missing (the agency only started keeping track of the missing trash this summer). As the Times notes, "the appliances did not develop legs and walk away, and they did not simply disappear." Bed bugs carried them away, maybe?
Anyway, while it may not seem that important at first glance, remember that one man's trash is another man's cash. Sims Municipal Recycling of New York L.L.C, for instance, has a large contract to recycle New York's waste and says the thefts, along with schemes involving redeemable bottles (Newman!) are costing them between $2 and $4 million annually, according to the companies awesomely named general manager Thomas Outerbridge.
So who is doing the taking? While nobody can prove it, the mafia is one suspect (they do, after all, have a long history in waste management). There also seems to be a number of folk who simply drive around the night before Sanitation pick-ups and take what they can—a crime that only warrants a summons from the cops (and the temporary loss of their vehicle). Other culprits might be the many folks who like to go shopping on New York's streets, but that only makes sense in regards to working appliances—and many of these certainly were not.
In any event, the mystery is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. It does, however, allow us to remind you that if you are throwing out refrigerators, freezers, air-conditioners, water coolers and dehumidifiers you want to call 311 and let them know. That way, assuming the Department of Sanitation gets there in time, the chlorofluorocarbons can be properly removed.