When Todd Frye goes to bed on Thursday nights, he knows two things will happen the next morning: a truck will pick up his recycling and a man will pick through it before the Baltimore County workers arrive to collect the items.
"Between 5:30 and 7 (in the morning), this guy comes along and he dumps out everyone's recycling bucket on the block, making a lot of noise, and takes cans and stomps them," said the Mellor Avenue resident.
Picking through recycling, even when it is on public property, is a violation of a county ordinance, according to Capt. John Spiroff, commander of the Wilkens Police Station, which patrols Catonsville.
Article 13 of the County Code states only "employees of the county engaged in public work or private companies authorized by the county" may collect recyclables set out for collection.
Spiroff, who has sent officers to talk to Frye about the situation, said the violation is a misdemeanor.
Outreach officers, Spiroff said, have spoken with Frye about their findings, and officers have been directed to the location.
"If they see it, we'll charge the individual," Spiroff said.
The man picking through Mellor Avenue's recyclables has been a thorn in Frye's side since he noticed the action six months ago.
"He's got it timed really well," Frye said. "He's usually doing the last couple of houses on our street by the time the truck comes on the neighborhood."
Before contacting the authorities, Frye attempted to deter the picker, he said, by setting his bins on the house side of the sidewalk at the edge of his property line.
But it was to no avail.
"He just pulls it out anyhow, no respect for that," Frye said.
Charles Herrera, who has lived on Mellor Avenue for 13 years, recalled seeing a man go through the recycling in the neighborhood off Frederick Road.
He said he watched as the picker went through a neighbor's recyclables, just to make sure everything went back into the bin.
When it did, Herrera went about his day.
"I figured it was somebody taking the initiative and looking for recycling metal that they can sell, " Herrera said, noting he hasn't seen debris around his yard. "I don't think it's a matter of stealing. I think it's a matter of collecting.
"I understand the county makes money from it, but I'm sure the county gets a lot more volume than that man can collect," Herrera said. "We haven't had a bit of trouble."
Whatever the picker doesn't take, he puts back into the recycling bins, Frye said.
But often he misses and pieces end up littering the lawn, he said.
On the rare occasion the unidentified picker runs late, the truck will not collect the recycling that he is sorting through, Frye said.