The City Council gave tentative approval this week to an ordinance to prohibit the taking of recyclable trash from curbsides by anyone but the city's contract trash hauler.
The anti-scavenging ordinance coincides with the start of the city's residential recycling program on Oct. 1, Assistant City Manager Gerard Goedhart said.
"Our fear is that individuals will go by and pick up the materials that have been put out, taking them for their own personal gain," he said. "We have to make it clear that that is stealing from the public."
The money received from recycling the material will be used to defray the cost of the curbside containers and the pickup of the material, Goedhart said.
"The success of the program depends on the amount of materials collected," he said. "There are some very organized people out there who would try to take advantage of this. We want them to know that under no circumstances will we allow scavenging."
Responding to a question from Councilman Anthony R. Selvaggi, city officials acknowledged that enforcement of the ordinance will be difficult.
The number of days when trash is collected within the city by Briggeman Disposal will increase from one to four per week beginning Oct. 1.
"This will reduce the geographical area the Police Department will have to watch over any given day," Goedhart said.
Residents are encouraged to call police if they notice any suspicious behavior around their curbside trash.
Fines for violating the ordinance have not been determined, but Goedhart estimated that they would begin at $100 for a first offense and rise with each additional offense.
The ordinance will be considered for final approval at the council's Sept. 24 meeting.