The folks who drive beat-up pickup trucks through Evanston’s alleys looking for scrap metal to collect would have to be licensed under an ordinance scheduled for City Council adoption tonight.

The ordinance would require anyone driving what it refers to as a “junk wagon” to have a “junk peddler’s” license.

The license would cost $38 a year and require proof the peddler had a valid driver’s license and auto liability insurance.

It would also require that junk wagons display the licensee’s name, address and phone number.

And It would limit collection times to between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. and would prohibit overnight parking of junk wagons on residential streets.

Penalties for violations would range from $50 to $500.

Licenses could be revoked if the licensee was charged with or convicted of theft, possession of stolen property or related offenses.  Licenses could also be suspended by the city, subject to a right to appeal the suspension by the licensee.

Corporation Counsel Grant Farrar, in a memo to aldermen, says the current ordinance regulating junk collection hasn’t been updated since 1985 and only requires licenses for people who purchase junk and scrap metal.

Since most junk peddlers collect disgarded material from alleys without paying for what they pick up, they haven’t been covered by that ordinance.

City staff is asking that the council suspend its rules, which normally require a two-week break between introduction and adoption of ordinances, and give the new regulations final approval tonight.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Leave the junk collectors alone!

    The junk collectors do me a favor- they remove my metal junk and recycle it. Has anyone reported a problem? If I see a treasure in someone else's trash, will I be required to get a license?

    Sounds like a great way to harass Hispanics and other low income people. Ald. Holmes, is this your way of "serving" your constituents?

  2. Yes, Yes and Yes.

    How many of these Junk Collectors have stolen bikes on the back of their trucks? Who throws out a perfectly good bike?

    1. Drive through the alleys around Northwestern…

      …especially after school ends in June and you will see MANY bikes discarded by their former owners who didn't want to bother with hauling them home.

  3. Let’s not regulate ourselves into a box.

    I think this is a bit overkill. I have had some interaction with these junk collectors (most recently this weekend) and find them all very respectful and even humble. My guess is that they are mostly undocumented immigrants who will not register for fear of being picked up. Plus, a registration is going to cost them money which is what they have so little of.

    Furthermore, this group serves a public good in that they collect and recycle items that more likely would end up in landfills. If we choke off this group by demanding a license under threat of arrest, we are going to see more stuff hauled away rather than re-cycled.

    I hate to see our city become so rigid, full of licenses and restrictions to the point that we are choking on our own ordinances.

  4. Junk Collectors Are a Public Service

    The debris these guys haul away for free is what the City charges us $25 to take away.  Since the city isn't getting their fee from the residents who benefit from the free service offered by junk collectors, it looks like they are going to go after the junk collectors for the cash… seriously, let these guys collect the scrap metal and other junk without the red-tape of a required junk-collector license.  If the issues is parking their beat-up trucks on the street, make yet another regulation banning beat-up trucks.  Geez.

  5. Junk or recyclables?

    While I believe that junk collectors should be allowed to do their business without malicious over-regulation by the NIMBYs,  enquiring minds want to know some details about this junk business:

    1.  Do junk collectors remove any 'abandoned' property, or only those items that someone has requested that they take away?

    My guess is the former…junk collectors take whatever they can find.  I don't have a problem with that, if the stuff really is abandoned.

    2.  If profit can be made by recycling this scrap, should this opportunity be given to the trash collectors?

     If municipal or private trash collectors can make money selling this scrap, that money could be used to lower the cost of municipal trash removal or enable private haulers to bid lower prices for their services.

    So what enquiring minds really want to know is this:   Do these 'junk collectors' remove stuff that would otherwise end up in landfills, or are they cherry picking the valuable scrap that would be recycled anyway by the licensed, contracted trash collectors?

  6. All businesses need to be licensed

    As a resident of Evanston and one that has had interactions with scrap metal collectors, Evanston Police and residents regarding the scrap metal collector activities, I strongly support the requirement of licensing this business activity.  

    I have more than once stepped out to help a solo scrap metal collector to shoulder a heavy discarded appliance onto their trucks making both collector and disposing resident happy.  

    I have also assisted Evanston Police in spotting scrap collector vehicles suspected of being involved in ongoing criminal activity.  

    I have found the people driving the vehicles to be respectful, good natured and seemingly law abiding as I have also found others of them to be rude and even threatening to the point of making myself very careful of my interaction with them.   Most of them drive in a slow measured pace, often with family members, I recognize them and we wave to each other.  Others have two or three men in them and they barrel through our allies at unsafe speeds – slamming on the brakes when they spot some worthwhile scrap.  This type of driving habit is disturbing if not dangerous for residents pulling out of garages and children running through yards.  It is also highly unlikely to be corrected because it is impossible for police to detect and therefore enforce.

    Minimal business licensing is a smart, prudent step every community should take for any commercial activity going on within its confines.  Especially one involving an activity that so closely moves through our neighborhoods.   Chances are, if you are a home owner, the local collectors recognize you and know about your property, the people living in your home and your habits.  After all, they drive by your backyard and pass across your street nearly every single day.  Chances are they are looking into your backyard more often than you do.  This amount of knowledge can be useful to those not interested in being law abiding.  

    Given the realities of this situation, anyone should see that regulating the drivers to make sure they are licensed and that their vehicles carry insurance is just good, common sense.  Enabling and encouraging police to make a lawful permit inspection stop is a follow on good idea as well.  Doing a permit check will allow the police an important opportunity to insure that driver, vehicle, insurance and its load are operated in a safe manner to the protection of all, drivers and residents alike, and anyone occupying our streets, allies and sidewalks.

    Thirty eight dollars as an annual fee is a minimal amount and is highly unlikely to put any of these drivers out of business.  

    That said, however, should this amount prove to be insurmountable for some, then those drivers are free to patrol the countless other non-Evanstonian allies.  If this happens, then a good economic benefit will occur for the collectors that decide to invest in the permit.   The permit process will reduce the number of scrap metal collectors which will unquestionably help those local Evanston collectors to become more profitable.  

    So, as has been proven time and again, some measure of regulation by a civic body often is the best path to help protect the civic body while promoting the success of legitimate businesses operating within our boundaries.

    Afterall, they are here to make money in Evanston.  They move among us daily.  Requiring them to be licensed is a smart, responsible civic and commercial step.  It's a good job our government is doing for stepping up and expediting this important, helpful effort.  Let every Evanstonian support them in this effort.

    1. Scheme

      I don't buy your argument.

      The reality of the situation is that laws alrady exist that everyone must have a license and insurance to operate a motor vehicle, no further permits required.

      And unless I'm mistaken the police may already stop any vehicle speeding down any alley, picking up any non discarded property, or stop anyone at any time if they see unsafe vehicle conditions, ie. overloaded trucks, burned out brake lights, etc. 

      As far as non law abiding, anyone can drive through a neighborhood and case anybodys property, anytime of any day, one guy, two guys, three guys, whatever.  It's not like our police force is brain dead and this license will suddenly spark life into their heads.  They're already very competent, so this license does nothing whatsoever to further hinder criminal activity.

      In the end, this is driven by bureaucrats looking to generate extra cash by harassing and suppressing this activity so the city can better coerce the use of their underutilized and overpriced "pick up service".  

      Schemes to make taxpayers pay more, nothing civic or community minded about that.

  7. We should be paying these individuals

    We should be paying these hard working individuals rather than charging them and harassing them.  They do us all a service by keeping otherwise usable, or recyclable items out of the landfill.   This is a very short sighted regulation.

  8. Leave these guys alone

    Evanston is already over-regulated, and there's got to be more productive ways for the city council to spend its time.

  9. evidence of a need for licensing junk collectors?

    Can the city make a case that any of the issues it says will be addressed by licensing junk collectors are significant problems?

    If it is only the Corporation Counsel calling for licensing then it is only a need of the bureaucracy that is driving the request, not the public that benefits from what these collectors do.

    Nothing should be done to discourage junk pickup which is a service to us all.

    BTW: If Illinois had a bottle bill that would assign a value to containers that are presently worthless litter, then all the plastic bottles and cans we see would disappear just as appliances and furniture do right now because people would be out hunting for them.

  10. Junk collectors are good for the community.

    As someone who recently moved homes — junk collectors provide an invaluable service by picking up junk that litter alleys, and will just end up in a landfill.  Especially now that it is illegal to throw large electronics in the trash (like large tube televisions) — junk collectors provide a win-win for the resident and the collector.  I was unable to sell a large tube television for even $10 on Craigslist — these guys pick this stuff up for free.

    The "intent" of the licensing is to prevent things already against the law (e.g. driving without a license and driving without insurance). 

    Most junk collectors are not going to register anyways (or won't even know) .  In the end this will simply help protect large, established junk collectors from competition from low-income, mom and pop type operations.

    And who is going to enforce this?  City staff that say they are understaffed and overworked to begin with?

  11. I don’t see a need to license them

    I don't see a need to license them. The one hour collection period seems too short and arbitrary. I like it that they sometimes pick up junk early evening after I put it out.

  12. Leave them alone!!!

    Sometimes you wonder why isn't the council using its time and efforts in more important matters. Leave them alone! Let them work!! You know most of them are humble people without their papers; stop harrassing them!

    1. License Nirvana

      Are we the model of a city for a Monty Python show?

      Are we going to be nitty nitty bureaucrats going after minute problems while our infrastructure implodes? (Water main anyone?)

      As others have explained, these people do us all a favor by removing waste that saves effort and time for us.

  13. Quit with the taxes

    The city of Evanston taxes everything and now want to tax people who make an honest living with junk that people have already thrown out. The taxed beaches, hostile parking enforcement taxing with tickets, overtaxed property, high business taxes, tax, tax, tax! That is all this city knows how to do. Maybe try to cut spending rather then tax the citizens in this hard economy. I hope we see a huge turnover in the next election of our city officals.

  14. Seriously?

    I agree with most of the other posters. Evanston is already way too over-regulated, and putting the screws on people who are in essence dumpster diving is not only laughable, but embarrasing.

    I will admit they can be annoying as well as aggressive. But then you can say that about just about any profession — including politicians.

    Seriously, do some real work, will ya?

    1. Why they tax.

      Why does the Council tax and regulate so much [other than wanting more money for pork projects] ?

      Because like [almost all] politicians they have never held a real job in their life and don't understand or think much of business.  You may say they, like most in Congress and the Legislaturre, are/were lawyers.  Come on does anyone think that is a business rather just a stepping stone to office and a government santioned cartel.

  15. LOL

    Evanston is becoming the laughing stock of Chicago's nothern suburbs. It appears that the safest time to live in Evanston is when the council has an extended recess.

    1. Agreed–leave the scrap collectors alone

      This is by far one of the most ridiculous plans the council has considered.  The city charges us for extra trash pick-up–the scrap collectors are my only hope for disposing of items that don't fit in my trash can.  And how ironic that the same council that wants to make me pay for plastic grocery bags , to help the environment, also wants to charge the trash collectors who recycle my metal waste items.  Absolutely ludicrous.  

  16. There should be a cost of doing business.

    I think some of the commentators here are not home very much.

    The scap collectors in my part of town come down my alley every day, several of them every day.  Their trucks speed across the street, their vehicles look like they are ready to fall over and I would never drive behind one in a car or a bike if I had the choice.

    The items they scavange are FREE to them for the cost of gas and time.  Every dime they make by patrolling the alleys of Evanston, using Evanston streets and polluting Evanston air, is tax-free.  Really, do you think anyone is declaring the income from the junkyard?

    These regulations are very simple, and require that these business people pay the same kinds of fees and suffer the same kinds of inspections as every other business in Evanston.

    Why they should be exempt because they are carry away valuables that can be sold is beyond me.  They do not pick up your old couches or mattresses do they?

    1. OK Then

      Please publish your address and we'll place all of our metal trash next to your trash can. These people are nothing more than garbage pickers.

      i don't know about the current times, but 50 -60 years ago most of the kids I knew went through garbage cans to find bottles and other things that might be valuable. How about finding a good set of baby buggy wheels, The beginning of  a homemade go-cart is the next kid’s project.

      I'm glad that our greedy city council didn't make us get a license. Look out, all of you kids with a lemonaid stand.


  17. Perhaps just ban parking of junk trucks on streets

    I don't mind them patrolling my alleys, but I do mind having their overloaded trucks parked in front of my home for days on end, with neighborhood kids climbing through the trash. It's unsightly and dangerous.

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