Black Market Cardboard Recyclers (Video)

Current video goes undercover as a cardboard scavenger to reveal the legal and illegal side of recycling in San Francisco. In 2008, California passed a law cracking down on recycling poachers which targeted raiding of bottles, cans and newstands, but not cardboard. The rub lies in scappy individuals Madoffing with curbside-recycled cardboard and a) causing noisy inconvenience to sleeping San Franciscans and b) removing associated revenues from the city's waste-related financial ecosystem.The incentive for Cardboard Cowboys is simply that it makes more money than collecting bottles, however not as much as aluminum, although the bottom line is that cardboard is the easiest to find and haul off. When selling bottles, they must be separated by colors and one's hands can be accidentally cut. One Cardboard Cowboy interviewed breaks the numbers down as making $80 in sales with $20 for gas, leaving $60.

Mosquitos are independent recycling collectors who roam around town in ramshackle pick up trucks collecting cardboard, often illegally. The predominantly immigrant, under-the-table mosquito worker typically gets something in the area of $80 for a packed load of cardboard almost twice as tall as the truck itself. Cities are increasingly cracking down on mosquitos for poaching a lucrative trade for the government sanctioned recycling contractors. John Rolston creates his own mosquito truck and tries to find out what the controversy is all about.


Apropos of cardboard, check out photos of a flat-pack Empire State Building here.

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