Junkyard Planet

Junkyard Planet

Travels in the Billion-dollar Trash Trade

Book - 2013
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When you drop your Diet Coke can or yesterday's newspaper in the recycling bin, where does it go? Probably halfway around the world, to people and places that clean up what you don't want and turn it into something you can't wait to buy. In Junkyard Planet , Adam Minter-veteran journalist and son of an American junkyard owner-travels deeply into a vast, often hidden, multibillion-dollar industry that's transforming our economy and environment.

Minter takes us from back-alley Chinese computer recycling operations to high-tech facilities capable of processing a jumbo jet's worth of recyclable trash every day. Along the way, we meet an unforgettable cast of characters who've figured out how to build fortunes from what we throw away: Leonard Fritz, a young boy "grubbing" in Detroit's city dumps in the 1930s; Johnson Zeng, a former plastics engineer roaming America in search of scrap; and Homer Lai, an unassuming barber turned scrap titan in Qingyuan, China. Junkyard Planet reveals how "going green" usually means making money-and why that's often the most sustainable choice, even when the recycling methods aren't pretty.

With unmatched access to and insight on the junk trade, and the explanatory gifts and an eye for detail worthy of a John McPhee or William Langewiesche, Minter traces the export of America's recyclables and the massive profits that China and other rising nations earn from it. What emerges is an engaging, colorful, and sometimes troubling tale of consumption, innovation, and the ascent of a developing world that recognizes value where Americans don't. Junkyard Planet reveals that we might need to learn a smarter way to take out the trash.

Publisher: New York : Bloomsbury Press, c2013.
Edition: 1st U.S. ed. --
ISBN: 9781608197910
Characteristics: 284 p. :,col. ill., maps.


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Mar 01, 2014

I especially appreciated the author's focus on the economics of junk and refuse, which is the main factor as to whether stuff has a chance at a second (or third!) go-round, or if it just gets buried in a landfill. Since reading the book I've become more aware of the valuable materials all around us that seem to be just useless junk -- such as the copper wire and steel in the electric fan that won't run, the strings of Christmas lights that won't work (more copper! Plastic for flip-flops!), and the hundreds of "dead" farm implements and old pickups rusting behind barns around here (steel for new tractors!). An interesting book if, like me, you have a fascination for junkyards, or if you are concerned about our environment.

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