For most people navigating the sidewalks of New York, the corrugated-cardboard bundles that stores put out for recycling are either an obstacle or nothing at all – invisible stitches in the city's zippy visual drapery.
But for a subset of underground scavengers, they represent a drool-inducing resource, something to be urgently carried away to a recycling plant in exchange for cash money.
"Cardboard poaching," as it's become known, is a multimillion-dollar cancer growing in the diseased corpus of recycling crime. Though the media have lately zeroed in on scrap-metals theft and restaurant-grease rustling, the stealing of cardboard still hovers below most people's awareness level. That might change soon as the bandits become even more brazen and as recyclers bear down on the papery perps who propagate this unusual black market.Excellent! Of course, this is all technically illegal (all part of the "diseased corpus of recycling crime", apparently) because there are already companies who have been licensed by the city to do this hauling, so this cardboard is officially stolen goods... but hey who's counting? The only thing I'm gonna be counting is dollar bills, just like Homer and Bart.
The way it's supposed to work is that approximately 150,000 commercial establishments in New York contract with waste-removal companies who are licensed with the Business Integrity Commission, which among other duties is responsible for helping fight corruption in the city's garbage-management trade after the Mafia's intrusion in the 1990s. These authorized haulers schedule pick-up times with the businesses and whisk the waste away in professional-looking trucks.
The thieves, on the other hand, drive in trucks rented from U-Haul and Penske or even unmarked Econolines. They cruise slowly down the street manhandling bales of cardboard into the vehicles. Or they'll dodge behind a large store like Costco to retrieve spoils left outside by the Dumpsters.Oh, right. That's why it sounds like such a great racket... it's Mafia business. Makes sense. Still... who's coming with me, huh?
... the city's recyclers estimate that they're losing anywhere from $8 to $10 million a year. They argue that this loss hurts consumers as well, because haulers who can't make as much profit are less likely to grant discounts to business owners. Those businesses might then resort to raising their prices on consumers, and so on.Sounds like a load of crap to me, honestly. But hey, $8 to $10 million? Sign me up. Beats investing in government bonds, amirite?