The Hustle

Who knew cardboard would become the hottest heist?

This is how dumpster divers are becoming criminal masterminds.

August 18, 2020

All around the world, cardboard rustlers are ripping off recycling bins

Turns out a paper-stealing posse can pull a neat profit selling old cardboard in China, where it’s pulped and made into shipping boxes.

The bad guys make bank while governments get screwed

In Madrid, thieves take almost half the cardboard that gets put into recycling. After 42 of its members got popped, one gang was accused of stealing 67k+ tons of paper waste/year, worth $11.8m/year.

You might not care where your castoffs go, but municipalities are missing the cut they take from recycling revenues. Madrid lost ~$19m.

From dumpster divers to criminal masterminds

The recycled cardboard and paper market is expected to hit $5.4B in 2024 — up from $4.3B in 2017. It’s “beige gold,” as the BBC put it.

Meanwhile, Europol says cardboard poaching has become more than just theft — some players have organized international money laundering rings.

It’s some weird high-stakes drama for a bunch of empty Amazon boxes. But I guess one man’s recycling is another man’s… mountain of cash.

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