DeKALB – Paul Laino of DeKalb is an early riser, waking up at 4:40 a.m. every day.
As the sun rises and most people are still asleep, Laino says a prayer, grabs his gear, including a GoPro camera, gloves and rope, and heads out the door in his blue pickup truck. Using the Map My Ride app on his phone, Laino drives around town during the early morning hours racing the garbage truck to look for items people leave out for trash collection.
Laino is a scrapper, collecting metal items to sell at B&O Used Auto Parts in Sycamore or DeKalb Iron & Metal in DeKalb. He also resells items he finds, including lawn mowers and furniture, using VarageSale and Facebook Marketplace. Laino goes scrapping Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday mornings in local cities and towns, including DeKalb, Sycamore, Cortland and Malta.
Laino is the Scrap & Pallet Man, whose YouTube channel has more than 43,400 subscribers. His videos average 50,000 viewers, with most having more than 100,000 viewers. His highest viewed video, published two months ago, has nearly 750,000 views.
“I have had 650,000 unique views in the last 28 days,” Laino said. “About 60% of my viewers are from North America, the other 40% are from around the world. People follow me from the UK, Australia and I have a huge following in Brazil. … You can really find some good items, treasures, in what others throw away. It’s keeping items out of landfills and reusing them, giving them another life after their metal is melted down.”
One question Laino is asked often is about the legality of scrapping. According to the 1988 case of California v. Greenwood, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside of a home.
“Police wanted to have the right to get evidence for crimes, and they won the case that garbage on the curb is considered abandoned and unwanted property,” Laino said. “Scrapping is legal. In fact, policemen, firemen and even garbage men have helped me load scrap into my truck.”
When scrapping, Laino only takes items left by the curb. He goes by the rule, “If in doubt, leave it,” if there is a question whether the items were meant for garbage pickup.
“I have been trash picking and dumpster diving for two years and nobody has been upset,” Laino said. “Dozens of people have told me that I’m welcome to their stuff, some even set items aside for me. They hate to see it being added to a landfill.”
Nubia Rodriguez, manager of B&O Used Auto Parts in Sycamore, said Laino is a regular at their metal recycling business.
“Oh, we all know Paul and subscribe to his channel and watch his videos,” Rodriguez said. “I think that scrapping has become more popular after videos like his. Anyone can scrap old items, from appliances to cans to Christmas lights. I wish more people knew about it. It’s a good thing to do for the environment and to keep items out of landfills.”
Although Laino is interested in keeping items out of landfills, he said the main reason he scraps and creates videos is to pray, talk about the Bible and “take viewers on a journey.” Each of his videos are 25 minutes to an hour in length, catering to his target audience’s desire for “an escape from their world.”
“Many of my viewers are elderly, shut-ins or they’re in the hospital or hospice,” he said. “I want to take them outside and show them what I do. My videos might be the only way they see what’s going on in the outside world, and that warms my heart and breaks my heart at the same time.”
Laino first started scrapping two years ago after what he calls his “mid-life crisis.”
“I was watching YouTube videos about scrapping, guys like Tucker Upper and the Scrap Vulture,” Laino said. “I thought, ‘I could do that.’ So I started making videos with my cellphone and I loved it. People loved it. Now it’s become my full-time job.”
Laino is a disabled U.S. Coast Guard veteran, receiving service-connected compensation from the military. Laino said he makes more money through YouTube ad revenue and merchandise sales on Teespring than from selling what he’s scrapped to junk yards.
“Scrap metal prices dropped from 7 cents to less than 3 cents, so scrapping to make a living is getting more difficult,” Laino said. “But I don’t do this for the money. Does that hunk of metal matter? No. People matter. I do this as a ministry for Jesus, for those that are hurting or depressed, as a safe reprieve from everything that is going on in their lives.”
Laino’s videos include prayer and he discusses Jesus and the Bible. He also talks about mental health, divorce, substance abuse and everyday struggles. He often answers questions and replies to viewers in his videos, and he always likes or replies to viewers’ comments. His videos usually end with a challenge to do something positive, like call someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.
“I think scrapping is relaxing and tranquil, and I love being able to share it with others,” Laino said. “People throw away all kinds of stuff, I never know what I’m going to find. … Some people tell me it’s weird and to get a real job. But I like to share my hobby with the world, giving others an escape. I just want to do what I love and create interesting, engaging and captivating videos for my audience.”
Source: The Daily Chronicle