Law closes in on Bexley's trash man
Monday, January 19, 2009 3:06 AM
By Elizabeth Gibson
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
<p>Robert Jessberger picks up a children's toy that was left in the trash. He says his gathering of others' castoffs, illegal in Bexley, is both neighborly and useful. He keeps items from landfills, donates to charity and makes money at garage sales.</p>
LEONARDO CARRIZO | DISPATCH
Robert Jessberger picks up a children's toy that was left in the trash. He says his gathering of others' castoffs, illegal in Bexley, is both neighborly and useful. He keeps items from landfills, donates to charity and makes money at garage sales.
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Even in the snow, Robert Jessberger drives down Bexley's alleys three times a week.
Suddenly, he'll hit the brakes -- his seat belt comes off, the door opens and he checks for the police. Then he grabs a plastic Little Tikes play kitchen from a pile of trash, dusts off the snow and loads the treasure into his minivan.
Back home, he'll add it to a pile of vacuums, furniture, exercise equipment, toys, home appliances and tools stacked floor to ceiling in his garage. Later, he'll power-wash it and make any necessary repairs.
Jessberger donates thousands of dollars' worth of goods he saves from the garbage to charity and neighbors every year. He sells what's left at an annual garage sale that has paid for him and his wife to go on seven cruises.
"People throw stuff away and they don't know what it's worth," he said. "This is a lot better than it all going into the dump."
None of this is legal in Bexley, though. Taking another person's trash is outlawed.
Jessberger has proposed that Bexley issue trash-collecting licenses to "people of good character," but the city's police chief argues it's an invitation to for-profit scrap collectors and identity thieves.
Jessberger has received warnings from police twice. But after the 49-year-old resident spoke up at a City Council meeting, Bexley Police Chief Larry Rinehart said he was going to tell officers they need to start writing citations.
Legalizing trash-snatching would give unsavory characters permission to snoop around for personal information such as bank statements or inspect a property they plan to rob, Rinehart said. And used furniture left on the curb can be infested with bedbugs.
"It's not the '70s anymore," Rinehart said, raising his voice at a City Council meeting last week. "Quit putting things out with your trash that encourage people to drive by."
Taking someone's trash without permission also is illegal in many other cities, including Columbus.
Rumpke Inc., which handles trash pickup for Bexley, also disapproves of scavenging because it makes a mess and violates privacy, spokesman Jonathan Kissell said. However, making it legal would not violate the company's contract.
Jessberger argued that the city would avoid problems if it issued permits and car stickers to people with good intentions, and treasure-hunters could double as block-watch members.
If salvaging is an accepted norm that happens illegally already, he said, why not handle the issue above the table?
Some City Council members admit they have picked up things left for the trash. However, they said they were unsure how to fairly choose who would get a license.
"How would we differentiate between a person like you and someone who does it for profit and occasionally makes a mess?" Councilman Mark Masser asked.
Councilman Rick Weber suggested encouraging residents to take reusable goods to charities and thrift stores.
Meanwhile, Jessberger said, too much is piling up in landfills.
He sold 20 vacuums, many thrown out because of minor clogs, at one garage sale.
Another time, he found a pile of cedar left over from a fence and made 20 birdhouses out of it. He gave one to the family that had thrown away the wood and others to neighbors and charity.
Neighbor Emily Reiser, 33, has received children's furniture, a toy box, a plastic outdoor playhouse and a shiny Radio Flyer rocking horse from Jessberger.
Reiser said there are junkers on the street no matter what the law says, and she doesn't see any harm in what they and Jessberger do.
"He's just very friendly and giving," she said. "We want Bob to be legal. Otherwise, we need to get him a mask and a cape."
notice Nowhere in the story doe it mention the man stealing anyones identity or causing anyone harm ! He's just doing good and making pin money with the garage sales !!! I think it's just sour grapes myself ! Or maybe Spoiled Cabbage LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!!