Inside the Surprisingly Lucrative World of Cardboard Theft

With the help of a rental truck, you too can cash in on the multimillion-dollar cardboard-rustling business.

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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.