You wouldn't think it, but in New York there is a growing -- and lucrative -- world of cardboard theft. For the so called cardboard poachers, "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.
The racket probably dates back decades, say industry sources. But in the past couple years the word on the street has really gotten out: Cardboard equals quick cash. To believe folks like David Biderman, there are crews in rental trucks circling New York every day in the feverish hunt for beige gold.
"We see the same trucks night after night in different locations. We have reason to believe there is some organization to this activity," says Biderman, a general counsel and lobbyist for New York's solid-waste professionals. "It's not as if 50 people woke up one morning and said, 'Today, instead of getting a real job, I'm going to go steal cardboard.' It seems highly unlikely that would happen at the scope and scale we're seeing in this city."