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Resource Center > Article
Turning Trash into Cash in NYC
5 Jun 12 Posted by: Kevin James Culp
in Opportunity Focus
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This unassuming photo may at first glance look like nothing and nobody, certainly nothing or nobody important, right? But that’s just it, looks can be deceiving. And what you’re looking at is plenty important.


In fact, it’s a true entrepreneurial success story. But it’s not one you’re going to necessarily find on the front page of the paper. It’s a story about the west side of Manhattan, past 10th avenue, where you will find a pretty elaborate system of dollies, trucks, loading equipment and plastic wrapping equipment. All in all, it’s a pretty impressive operation, which in and of itself isn’t all that unexpected in a city like this one where big business is the order of the day.

What is surprising is that it’s all run by homeless people.

So, what are they up to? The easy answer? Turning trash into cash…and doing it brilliantly.

Every bottle, say a Corona beer in NYC, has a tax on it so that if it is recycled then the recycler gets cash back. And the thing is that the folks we’re talking about here have figured out that if they recycle loads of them, they can actually make some pretty good money.

Yes, while Bloomberg bleeds billions from New Yorkers and his team of super-thinkers sits dreaming up of great ways to limit the amount of soda you drink, these unlikely entrepreneurs―who have actually created something pretty incredible―are collecting bottles and plastic by what looks like the ton and converting it into cold hard cash at checkpoints like this one early in the a.m….most of them so they can eat, I’m sure.

As for this particular operation, it has cases of recycled beer stacked a story high and a half-city-block wide, all on pallets, same as you’d see in the back of any large retail chain’s facility. The only difference is that all of those bottles―plucked from the trash and then shrink-wrapped, palleted, labeled and loaded onto an 18-wheeler truck that rolls from 32nd St. one block down to the West Side Highway―are on their way OUT OF THE CITY.

Furthermore, this particular location also has a station to fix the ‘borrowed’ hotel dry-cleaning carts that can really pack in bottles and have a low center of gravity for balancing large loads. Impressive…seems they’ve thought of everything.

So next time you pitch a beer bottle, you might take a moment to wonder whose hands it will finally land in and to what end. Could it be that NOT recycling your bottles and cans means you’re serving the community on some level?

The fact that the homeless in NYC are turning trash into cash city-wide is pretty cool, that’s for sure. They deserve recognition for not only their inventiveness, but the fact they are willing to work so hard for their money.

Bottom line? What we discard every day is turned into cash by some pretty enterprising and hard-working individuals in NYC, proving once more that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure…and that entrepreneurship takes many forms.

Carpe Diem

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