WBEZ | scrap metal http://www.wbez.org/tags/scrap-metal Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Scrapping for metal in the bitter cold http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/scrapping-metal-bitter-cold-109591 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/coldman2.PNG" style="height: 460px; width: 620px;" title="Ulysses Bonilla travels by bike to look for scrap metal even on the coldest winter days. (WBEZ/Linda Paul)" /></div><p>On the day I met Ulysses Bonilla the thermometer had dipped to negative three, snow blanketed the ground, and the wind was whipping in every direction.<br /><br />I&rsquo;d come to this Chicago underpass looking for a guy I know who stays here.<br /><br />Ulysses was here because this is where he takes his short smoke breaks. Mostly he smokes discarded cigarette butts he finds on the sidewalk, but on a splurge day he actually buys cigarettes.<br /><br />It&rsquo;s a break from a routine he follows daily&mdash;rain or sleet, intense heat or severe cold. With a nylon-topped kiddie trailer lassoed to a bike, he makes his way around the alleys of Chicago collecting recyclables, including house wire, steel pipes, copper, and aluminum.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/coldman.PNG" style="height: 221px; width: 300px; float: right;" title="Chicagoan Ulysses Bonilla (WBEZ/Linda Paul)" />On a typical day he starts at 6 a.m. During his 10-hour work day he&rsquo;ll traverse 20 to 25 miles, roughly from North Avenue to Irving Park Road and Sheridan Road west to Kedzie. On a really good day his collection efforts may net him $30 to $40 at a recycling center or &ldquo;junkyard&rdquo; as he calls them.</div><p>The frigid day of our chance encounter, he&rsquo;d been at it three hours and figured his haul was worth maybe $13 or $14.<br /><br />In our little conversation he tells me about his life, where he sleeps at night, and about a business he dreams of starting ... you can hear that hope in the audio, above.<br /><br />When he wakes up in the morning, Bonilla never knows what &ldquo;junk&rdquo; he&rsquo;ll find or how much money he&rsquo;ll have at the end of the day. His biggest fear, he says, is uncertainty.</p></p> Tue, 28 Jan 2014 15:57:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/scrapping-metal-bitter-cold-109591 Venture: The mistress of metal http://www.wbez.org/story/business/venture-mistress-metal <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/IMG_3542.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Here on Venture, we'll trek out into the business world to hunt up people who can tell us more about the economy than the numbers alone.<br> &nbsp;<br> Every week, the economic news cascades over us like a waterfall of numbers - housing starts, consumer confidence, jobless claims. It's easy to tune them out.<br> <br> But all those numbers signify someone's livelihood, someone's home, someone's wallet. That someone is us. We want to get insight into the health of the economy by exploring how people all around us are experiencing it.<br> <br> This week, we'll get data on the manufacturing sector.&nbsp; Someone in the Chicago area who knows a lot about manufacturing is Marsha Serlin.<br> <br> Back in 1978, she was stuck in a situation a lot of people face these days - she was newly divorced with two kids, staring at foreclosure. She needed to make some money.&nbsp;So when she saw a neighbor with a truck picking up scrap metal in alleys, she had a flash of inspiration.<br> &nbsp;<br> "I was strong, I was young and I said, you know, I can do this," Serlin said. "I said, if he can do it, I can do it."<br> &nbsp;<br> She didn't let her lack of knowledge stand in the way. She just started asking other scrap collectors for tips.<br> &nbsp;<br> "I said what about all that material, where do you get it?" Serlin said. "And they said, 'It comes from factories.' So I started knocking on doors. I was driving the truck in the beginning and then I had to hire people to do that and lo and behold, I had a fleet of trucks."<br> &nbsp;<br> Now she wears a bubblegum pink hardhat and oversees a scrap empire in Cicero that stretches over 38 acres. United Scrap Metal’s annual revenue is about $200 million.&nbsp; It’s a noisy place. There are gigantic sorting machines that Serlin describes as straight out of Willy Wonka.<br> &nbsp;<br> Outside she stops in front of a mountain of metal that includes remnants of old Coca Cola vending machines.&nbsp; From these scrap piles, she has a unique perspective on the economy. Serlin can tell if the country’s factories are humming or dead,&nbsp; based on how much metal they buy from her.<br> &nbsp;<br> That’s the kind of savvy that can help us make sense of this week’s manufacturing numbers, which have been showing some improvement lately.&nbsp;She says the industry is clawing its way out of a deep hole:</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483413-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-march/2011-03-10/venture-scrap-seg-1.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>Marsha Serlin's business is now one of the largest scrap recyclers in the country. I wanted to know what gave her the drive and business savvy to go from picking up scrap in alleys to running a multi-million dollar company.</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483413-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-march/2011-03-10/venture-scrap-seg-2.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>From scrap yards to tattoos...</p><p>Tattoos are this week's Windy Indicator, where we search the Windy City's nooks and crannies for a read on the wider economy.</p><p>Even on a recent snowy day, customers stream into Tatu Tattoo in Wicker Park. Marci&nbsp;Mundo is the manager. She says business has slowed down since the recession hit, but they've adapted as their customers have scaled back:</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483413-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-march/2011-03-10/venture-tattoo.mp3">&nbsp;</audio></p><p>Check back in with us next Monday for another installment of Venture. We'll meet an artist who's become an accidental real estate mogul and then head over for a good old-fashioned shoeshine.</p></p> Mon, 14 Mar 2011 05:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/business/venture-mistress-metal Documentary ‘Scrappers’ looks at the economy of scrapping for metal http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/documentary-%E2%80%98scrappers%E2%80%99-looks-economy-scrapping-metal <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/scrappers movie.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Roger Ebert named &quot;<a href="http://www.scrappersmovie.com/" target="_blank">Scrappers</a>&quot; one of the best documentaries of 2010. The film follows two men who make their living dumpster diving for scrap metal. A few years back, at the height of the scrap metal economy, copper iron or aluminum commanded hundreds of dollars per ton: Not any more. Like the rest of the American economy, the scrap metal industry took a nose dive in 2008. And that&rsquo;s just some of the drama driving &quot;Scrappers.&quot;</p><p>Last year, &quot;Eight Forty-Eight&quot; spoke with two of the film&rsquo;s producers and directors, <a href="http://kolakvideo.com/" target="_blank">Ben Kolak</a> and <a href="http://www.scrappersmovie.com/blog/" target="_blank">Brian Ashby</a>; Kolak said that gaining the trust of those in the scrapper community wasn&rsquo;t easy.<br /><br />The film &quot;Scrappers&quot; screens Friday at the <a href="http://docfilms.uchicago.edu/dev/" target="_blank">University of Chicago Doc Films</a> on E. 59th St.</p></p> Wed, 19 Jan 2011 15:51:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/documentary-%E2%80%98scrappers%E2%80%99-looks-economy-scrapping-metal