Even a cop who's seen his fair share of street lamp-stealing criminals has to pause at some of the criminal recycling stories that pop up. While the majority of thieves frequent abandoned buildings, construction sites, older homes and businesses under the cover of night, an Oregon criminal trio was much more daring. By masquerading as construction workers, two men and a woman successfully dismantled crossbeams and handrails from a bridge in plain sight. Along with two other thefts over the following year, the thieves stole a total of 3.5 tons of steel [source: Millman].
Thousands of miles away, thieves set their sites on an even heftier goal. In Russia, employees of a heating plant had to find an alternate route to work after the bridge that provided them their only direct access was stolen by scrap thieves during a nighttime heist. The heating company estimated that the 200-ton steel bridge would cost almost $40,000 to replace -- this time with concrete [source: Daily Mail].
Admittedly, stories like that are somewhat amusing, but others are just plain disturbing. In Florida, 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms) worth of artificial body parts taken from cremated bodies were dug up in a Tampa Bay cemetery and sold for $5,400 [source: "Proposed Law"]. Who knew thieves would covet prosthetic legs and steel hips?
On a lighter note, in the United Kingdom, it turns out that pubs are not only popular for their quality ale. Beer kegs also are a hot-ticket item: More than 250,000 of them were stolen in 2005. Four hundred and thirty of those were stolen in just one night -- transported over a chain-link fence no less. One brew master now slaps large yellow signs on his kegs warning scrap dealers not to buy them [source: Millman]. In the United States, missing beer barrels have cost the industry $50 million a year [source: AT&T].
If only legitimate recyclers were as eager to recycle as these guys, our planet would have nothing to worry about. For more information about recycling's alter ego, browse through the links on the following page.