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Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade Hardcover – November 12, 2013
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Junkyard Planet will get you thinking about everything that you use, especially those items which you do not use up. So where does this stuff go? Well, a lot of it gets exported overseas, especially to China, where the need for scrap metal, scrap paper and scrap plastic is high. Recyclables are headed to places where the need for raw materials is not met by the amount of scrap generated in-country and where the cost of virgin materials is considerably higher.
There is value in scrap. It will be found in those places where the costs of sorting, separating and cleaning it, along with transport, is lower than its value in reuse or in recycled materials. The margin or difference in cost is where money is.
One of most important principles Minter espouses is, "the worst, dirtiest recycling is still better than the very best clear-cut forest or the most up-to-date open-pit mine." In other words, most low grade scrap would end up in a landfill if it were not exported to a place where its future value is above the cost of recycling and transport.
Adam Minter knows his subject well. He was brought up in a Minnesota family with a modestly-sized family recycling business. He understands the terminology, the business process, how scrapping works. Metals were the key material in his parents family business. Minter's travels take him across the United States and Asia, to China in particular. With the rapid rise of the Chinese economy, it is China most of all, where international recycling is in full form.Read more ›
The author takes the reader on a tour of the various types of scrap that exist. From electrical wire, to electric motors, to plastics, to cars and to steel and aluminum and many more, each type of scrap has a market and a place in the recycling pecking order. In addition, there are places in China that specialize in each of these types of scrap.
Our garbage is China's, and to a lesser extent, India's raw materials from which new products spring. Each has a growing economy and a developing middle class that wants the same goods that are present in the United States. In addition, we are still addicted to buying inexpensive merchandise from China and the "raw" materials have to come from somewhere. The easiest way to obtain those goods is to come to the United States and buy them from recyclers and scrap dealers.
Although that would seem to be an expensive proposition; buying a container of scrap, shipping it to China and then separating it into useful parts, nothing could be further from the truth. The containers travel back to China virtually free. The shipping companies have to get the ships and containers back to China, and they would get nothing for an empty one way trip, so they offer deep discount shipping to get something to help cover the cost of fuel.Read more ›
Adam Minter it incredibly well informed, and he's a great writer. He's personally experienced and witnessed the many different pieces of the trash trade, both in America and China, the two principal players in the industry (having grown up in the trade in America and lived in China for the last decade covering it as a journalist).
The best part is that Minter doesn't stand in judgement, either way, of the trash trade. There are pros that are very good and cons that are both bad and very scary ugly, and he is clearly torn in deciding how to feel about it. His thesis is that it's important, however good or ugly it is, and we American would do well to educate ourselves about it. And I couldn't agree more.
I received this book as part of the GoodReads FirstReads program.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Loved this book and all the pictures! Really explains the importance of international shipping!Published 4 days ago by Margaret S. Moga
This was an outstanding book. Lots of statistics, and sometimes those were boring, but the stories of Adam's travels and all the interesting people he talked to were captivating.Published 2 months ago by Darrell H.
Loved this book about the global recycling trade. Confirmed my belief that its best to reduce, reuse and recycle, in that order, because recycling is the worst option. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Tanja Olson
Was able to share with a friend who grew up in this type of business in Spain!Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Not bad. Interesting discussion (and photos) of the "front line" of where so much material ends up and how it is ultimately processed.Published 4 months ago by JimFo
Fantastic look into the E-Waste and Recyclilng businesses. HIghly recommendedPublished 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
Really enjoyed this excellent and insightful book. Minter provides an insider perspective that few Westerners could ever hope to achieve on their own. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Matthew T Cotton