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Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade [Hardcover]

Adam Minter
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (93 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Growing up as the son of a scrap dealer in Minneapolis, Minter learned firsthand that one man's trash is truly another man's treasure. In his first book, the Shanghai-based journalist charts the globalization of the recycling trade, focusing on the U.S. and China, and featuring a cast that ranges from self-made scrap-metal tycoons to late-night garbage pickers. Notable passages include a trip to Wen'an, one of China's most notoriously polluted plants where employees process hazardous materials while wearing sandals. Minter successfully resists oversimplifying the issue China currently faces—with a growing middle class demanding more raw materials for new construction, the options are living with the pollution caused by recycling or the environmental consequences of mining for raw materials. Minter takes readers through the Shanghai market where parts are harvested from second-hand electronics, but finds that the more complex the technology, the harder it is to reuse the metals. The scrap trade is one of the few business ventures possible in the developing world and this profession for outsiders shows no signs of slowing down. Minter concludes that the solution is in the first word in the phrase, Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. 2 16-page color inserts. (Nov.)

From Booklist

Out of sight, out of mind. That’s the typical sentiment of even the most meticulous recycler who doesn’t really think about where those carefully sorted cans, bottles, magazines and newspapers go after they’ve been picked up curbside. From big screen TVs to the tiniest of Christmas tree lights, there’s a world of trash—or, in the parlance, scrap—out there. And lest one think that it all ends up in a landfill for future archaeologists to ponder, Minter is here to tell you that there’s big money to be made in what American consumers and industries throw away. As he travels the world from Houston to Guangzhou, surveying the debris and discards that fill scrap yards and warehouses, Minter takes the reader into a world of commodities trading that is every bit as lucrative and cutthroat as anything on Wall Street. The son of a scrap man, Minter brings an insider’s knowledge and appreciation for an industry that no one thinks about, everyone contributes to, and a lucky few profit from. --Carol Haggas

Review

"Eye-opening… [Minter is] an excellent guide to this sprawling and bewildering trade." – Wall Street Journal

"Superbly researched." – Financial Times

“A satisfying investigation-cum-travelogue.” –Mother Jones

“Fascinating “ –Atlantic Cities

“Minter successfully resists oversimplifying the issue China currently faces—with a growing middle class demanding more raw materials for new construction, the options are living with the pollution caused by recycling or the environmental consequences of mining for raw materials…Minter concludes that the solution is in the first word in the phrase, ‘Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.’” –Publishers Weekly

“Minter is here to tell you that there’s big money to be made in what American consumers and industries throw away. As he travels the world from Houston to Guangzhou, surveying the debris and discards that fill scrap yards and warehouses, Minter takes the reader into a world of commodities trading that is every bit as lucrative and cutthroat as anything on Wall Street. The son of a scrap man, Minter brings an insider’s knowledge and appreciation for an industry that no one thinks about, everyone contributes to, and a lucky few profit from.” Booklist

About the Author

Adam Minter grew up in a family of scrap dealers in Minneapolis. He became a professional journalist and now serves as the Shanghai correspondent for Bloomberg World View, in addition to making regular contributions to the Atlantic, Foreign Policy, and other publications. He now lives in Shanghai and blogs at shanghaiscrap.com. Junkyard Planet is his first book.
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