Jake Orta searched through a trash bin outside Mark Zuckerberg's home
 in San Francisco.

TRASH PICKERS fall into broad categories. For decades, small children, elderly women and men have collected cardboard, paper, cans bottles, lugging impossibly large bags around the city and taking them to recycling centers for cash.

Three blocks away from Mark Zuckerberg's $10 million Tudor home in San Francisco, Jake Orta lives in a small, single window studio apartment filled with trash.

There's child pink bicycle helmet that Mr. Orta dug out of the garbage bin across the street from Mr. Zuckerberg's house. And a vacuum cleaner, a hair dryer, a coffee machine - all in working condition - and a pile of clothing that he carried home in a Whole Foods paper bag retrieved from Mr. Zuckerberg's bin.

A military veteran who fell into homelessness and now lives in government subsidized housing.

Mr. Orta is a full time trash picker, part of an underground economy in San Francisco of people who work the sidewalks in front of multinational dollar homes, rummaging for things they can sell.

Trash picking is a profession more often associated with shantytowns and favelas than a city at  the doorstep of Silicon Valley.

The Global Alliance of Waste Pickers, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization counts more than 400 trash picking organizations across the globe, almost all of them in Latin America, Africa and Southern Asia.

But trash scavengers exist in many United States cities and, like the rampant homelessness in San Francisco, are a signpost of the extremes of American capitalism. A snapshot from 2019 : One of the world's richest men and trash picker, living a few minutes walk away from other.

Mr. Orta sees himself as more of a treasure hunter.

''It just amazes me what people throw away,'' he said one night, as he found a pair of gently used designer jeans, a new  black cotton jacket, gray Nike running sneakers and a bicycle pump. ''You never know what you will find.''

Mr. Orta says his goal is to earn around  $30 to $40 a day from his discoveries, a survival income of $300 a week.

Trash picking is illegal in California - once a bin is rolled out onto the sidewalk the contents are considered the possession of the trash collection company, according to Robert Reed, a spokesman for Recology., the company contracted to collect San Francisco's garbage. But the law is rarely enforced.

Mr. Corta was born in San Antonio, one of the 12 children. He spent more than a dozen years in the Air Force, loading aircraft during the Persian Gulf war of 1991 and was dispatched to Germany, Korea and Saudi Arabia.

By the time he returned to the United States, his wife had left him, and he struggled with alcoholism and homelessness. He moved to San Francisco, and five years ago qualified for a program assisting chronically homeless veterans.

At dusk he leaves his apartment building, which is wedged between a popular brunch spot for tech workers and a cannabis shops in the heart of the Mission neighborhood.

The smell of marijuana fills the vestibule. Walking up a steep hill lined with mature trees, he passes home that could pass for works of art : Victorians, some with stained glass and elaborate cornices and moldings painted in a soft palette of pastels, ocher, celadon, and teal.

A virtual tour of the neighborhood on the Zillow site shows that homes valued at $3 million and above are the norm.

But Mr. Orta doesn't look at the architecture. He walks the streets, slightly stooped, his eyes on the ground and a flashlight in his back pocket.

His friends call him The Finder.

The honor and serving of the latest global operational research of trickle-down economics of trash picking, continues. The World Students Society thanks author and researcher Thomas Fuller.


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