Digging for trash and paying for it? Most people would turn up their nose at the idea. Not Kelly Maby. The Wheaton College student is using a $28,000 scholarship to study scavenging around the world.

Maby is no newcomer to scavenging.

“When I was around 8 years old, my family wasn’t doing so well, so my brother and I collected beer cans and bottles,” the Queens, N.Y., native said. “We actually thought it was fun.”

It was so much fun that Maby will spend her scholarship studying scavenging — also known as waste-picking — in Egypt, Brazil, Guatemala and Ecuador.

According to a new report out of the United Nations University, at least 15 million people earn their living as waste-pickers.

“This is a huge informal economy,” Maby said.

The global impact of scavenging is estimated at several billion dollars.

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