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Surviving on Cardboard

Eastern Group Publications, News Report, Carla Mara Guerrero and Gloria Angelina Castillo Posted: Mar 26, 2009

When hard times hit, people do what they can to survive: Some collect aluminum cans and plastic bottles; others collect cardboard as a means for survival.

Miguel Partida is a 68-year-old Highland Park resident who says his job is collecting cardboard from the streets in the areahe is a cardboard picker. He drives around in his beat-up pick-up truck, canvassing alleys behind stores in search of cardboard left for trash.

About a year ago, said Partida, a ton of cardboard would earn him $100. His truck, he said, holds about half a ton, so after a day of picking up cardboard, hed make $50. Today, he barely makes $20 collecting that same half-ton because the price now being paid for cardboard has been slashed.

I dont know what the rich will think, but we the poor continue to work, said Partida who arrived in this country in 1956 at the age of 15. He said he wasnt always a cardboard hauler. He worked for a company in Glendale for 31 years before he was fired in 1993 because he couldnt fulfill his job duties after being diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Since then, Partida, whose truck one day earlier this week looked almost full, said he has had no choice but to dedicate himself to the recycling business; picking up cardboard, aluminum cans and wooden pallets. In fact, he adds, even the prices for the wooden pallets has dropped from $5 to $3 to $1.50 a piece.

Darren Segal of Active Recycling Co, Inc. that recycles various paper grade materials and scrap metal in East Los Angeles, said that prices for paper goods dropped drastically towards the end of the summeralmost by half. When the market plummeted like it did, it put a lot of people out of the market, said Segal, who added that despite the most recent dramatic drop, prices have always gone up and down and they will [eventually] even out.

Our business has been hurting for the past five or six months we employ many people from our community, from homeless to people who come with truckloads everyone who recycles is suffering, said Segal.

But Segal said he has a message for everyone who recycleswhether its small time or their job. If we dont continue to recycle, not only is it affecting our own well-being but the future of our environment.

Partida said he also collects aluminum cans and plastic bottles to supplement his weekly income with an additional $60 that he said, is good. His wife wants to help him, but is allergic to the dust from the cardboard, he said.

Partida is the father of five, and has 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. His children are working now and he said they help him but he doesnt want them to feel pressured.

They need to make to their own lives, he said, adding that he feels proud of them, especially after his daily rounds through alleys and streets where he sees young men asking for a handout. Partida said he needs to pay his bills on time and doesnt like to give money to the kids he sees in the streets.

Im still alert, said Partida who carries half a ton of cardboard to his truck each day. Partida said he never liked asking for help or money and doesnt like to depend on the charity of others. He prefers to earn his money the right way, he says: through hard work.

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