Photo by John

Last month, a recently opened recycling center – a hub for those bottle-and-can scavengers – became the target of angry neighbors on East 15th Street and Avenue U. Neighboring businesses and residents complained about crowded sidewalks, awful stenches and litter, as reported by Brooklyn Daily.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, responsible for licensing such centers, fined the business for lacking proper paperwork. Later, according to Community Board 15 Chairperson Theresa Scavo, it was found to violate zoning, too.

The business, Mainstream Recycling Group, shut down at the end of July.

Though neighbors near Avenue U were upset when it operated and happy when it closed, neighbors on Avenue Y had the opposite reaction.

The Avenue Y Brighton Line underpass, between East 15th Street and East 16th Street, had for years been the gathering point for scores of bottle collectors, and the site where a truck would redeem their goods every morning between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. Their walls of bagged cans and bottles, throngs of elderly men and women, and leftover garbage brought complaints from neighbors.

Photo by John (Click to enlarge)

In the few short months Mainstream Recycling Group existed, those Avenue Y neighbors were granted brief relief.

Now that the business is gone, their problems are back, and the crowds are worse than ever.

“This time there were people with garbage all over each corner, not just next to the MTA building,” said John, a Sheepshead Bites reader who lives near the corner. “I had to walk in the street to get by.”

It’s not just coincidence. Community Board 15′s Scavo told Sheepshead Bites that the truck pickups were operated by the same owners, and she suspects he’s back to his old game after the Avenue U location was shut down – even though Mainstream Recycling Group operates two other locations – one at 369 Quentin Road and the other at 90 Kings Highway.

But neither are close enough to service local collectors.

“According to him, he was doing so great on the truck, he wanted a permanent location to collect. That’s why he went to East 15th Street [and Avenue U,]” Scavo said. “He didn’t understand, there are rules and regulations and laws that must be followed.”

Photo by John (Click to enlarge)

Scavo added that she believes he’s still flouting those regulations, operating the truck without a proper license for mobile collections.

“I had no idea he’s back on Avenue Y. Last I heard, he was stopping his truck business and only doing storefronts,” she said.

Scavo said she will notify the Sanitation Department, who will dispatch an enforcement officer to the scene and check if he is licensed.

Still, she said, neighbors shouldn’t blame all the garbage problems at the underpass on the bottle collectors.

“The mess was there with him or without him,” Scavo said. “[Bottle collectors] leave the soda bottles and the cans, but the computer components, tvs, mattresses … people for some reason think that under the train trestle is a great place to dump.”

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  • NeckRoadWarrior

    I wouldn’t want recycling to stop – landfills are already too full – but the bottle law was created to start people recycling; something more recent laws now mandate. I think it’s time for bottle redemption laws to be overturned, and end the incentive for people to rip open bags and leave trash-strewn sidewalks and gutters behind them.

    Should there be some increased outreach to those who have chosen to rely on this practice? Sure, but the culture, vandalism, and even violence, bottle redemption creates should not be allowed to continue.

  • tjjj

    once somebody put a can in the their own garbage bin, and that bin goes out on the street… it now belongs to the city. these can pickers are stealing from the city who in fact sells the tons of tin cans for a profit.