Trash Picking and Redlining

I’ve been keeping an eye open for things put out on the curb, because people often put nice things out to “donate” them to scavengers. I put stuff out often, and even post notices on Craigslist and Facebook to tell the online scavengers.

I’ve also spent the past several years reading about the history of housing discrimination and redlining. Writing about it has been popular for a couple decades, and there’s lots of material online.

Anyway, I drive the side streets and have noticed that the best streets for picking are middle class and poor areas, which, in the past, were redlined. If they were not explicitly redlined, they were populated by historically redlined people.

I am from such a neighborhood, where most of the people came from East LA or Southwest LA. I did a few things with older folks there, and to my surprise, at least half of them were from those communities.

The neighborhood was built in the 60s and 70s, after redlining was ended, but some neighborhoods were (illegally) still “whites only”. Consequently, some developers created middle class suburbs for the nonwhite people who were excluded from the white suburbs.

That may have explained why there was this street alongside a vacant lot where people would dump their sofas, appliances, toys, office equipment, and other not-quite-trash.

Things would get picked up, and sometimes, things would get destroyed.

Anyway, I have found televisions, aquariums, decent rugs, industrial equipment, okay furniture, and other things. Usually, I don’t pick them up, because I don’t need them and don’t sell them. Sometimes, I list them on Craigslist as curb alerts, but not that often.

These aren’t in poor areas, just middle class areas. They weren’t redlined, but they were diverse.

The Historically White Areas

The old whites-only areas aren’t whites-only anymore, especially not in the San Gabriel Valley. They’re mostly Latino and Asian in some cities. Yet, despite this, they still don’t put out things to be picked up. At least they don’t do it in great amounts.

I wonder if it’s a case of “monkey see monkey do”, but the converse, where people don’t see others putting stuff out, so they don’t do it themselves.

Economic Factors

I recently wrote about how there’s no tax deduction for giving things away on Craigslist. So people with high incomes are motivated to donate to nonprofits, to get the tax deduction.

Due to the fact that deductions benefit higher-income people more than lower-income people,* the wealthier someone is, the more motivated they are to keep things off the street, and to not give things away to scavengers.

This is partly why organizations get angry at you if you scavenge their donations. I have suggested to some organizations that they give things away to poor people – but they didn’t want to do it. They want that deduction money. Poor people don’t have the kind of money that the tax system gives to nonprofits and charities.

The deduction is supposed to be the “market value” of the item, or a depreciated value of the item. In many situations, the actual market value is lower than the deduction value. Additionally, the cost of conducting a sale could be $10 or more (the cost of meeting up to do a cash sale), so the net revenues from the sale could be low.