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Resource Center > Article
Turning Trash into Cash in Chicago
20 Jun 12 Posted by: Kevin James Culp
in Opportunity Focus
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It is truly amazing just how many “accidental entrepreneurs” you find when you start to look for them. Take this picture below of a string of metal-laden, oftentimes old, beat-up Ford 150 pick-up trucks that have been converted to carry almost circus-like loads. These are the guys you see driving in and out of all the nooks and side streets, alleys or just about anywhere else you might find metal being tossed away.

They epitomize true entrepreneurial spirit, even if it is out of necessity as much as anything else. And they are relentless…

In fact, I’ve tested these guys over time. In addition to a myriad of other items, I once put out a sofa that was stripped for the foam, the cover and the even the wood down to the actual springs for the metal, all in no time at all. I’m telling you, it’s crazy just how fast these folks are willing to hustle. We could all take a lesson!

Talk about industrious and knowing how to make a buck out of seemingly nothing―that nothing is always something…it never goes to waste. Large and small appliances reduced to the smallest amounts of metal you can imagine―down to nails, nuts and bolts in fact―can make someone a tidy sum.

I talked to two guys who, despite their being a bit wary to talk about their quasi-legal industry, finally dished that they make on average about $65 to $80 per fully loaded truck. Given the cost of gas and the time necessary, I’m told they are able to make up to three runs per day to area recyclers on average.

One particularly ambitious entrepreneur of this kind is located just west of the main swank strip on Armitage Avenue, but you’d never know it. Okay, you might figure it out if you drove around that last bend and up and over the bridge…it’s on the left. Huge lines of scrap are being collected one blot at a time by a number of people, many of whom have been called nuts I’m sure. But they’re making a living and doing a fine job of it. Oh, and then there’s the fact that they’re actually saving our environment as well by recycling virtually everything they can get their hands on.

Nuts? I know first-hand that they are far from it. Quite the opposite in fact. Although these folks are often the down and out, one-paycheck-away-from-homeless types, they are also the first ones I see to get up and work hard. They’ve actually created their OWN JOB and are not waiting for someone to create it for them. So who’s nuts?

Personally, my hat is off to these folks in Chicago. Just as New York has its recyclers of bottles, cans and plastic (and I’m sure metal scrap as well), so too does Chicago. These people are taking every opportunity they can find to turn trash into cash, and should serve as a shining example of how to make lemonade from lemons―brilliant! And well done…

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