Synopses & Reviews
When you drop your Diet Coke can or yesterday's newspaper in the recycling bin, where does it go? Probably halfway around the world — where your trash becomes, literally, someones treasure. In Junkyard Planet
, Adam Minter offers eye-opening insights into how American refuse drives a vast $250 billion industry that reaches every corner of the globe, with profound effects on both our economy and our environment.
Minter is a veteran journalist with unmatched access to and insight on the waste industry — but even better, he has the explanatory gifts and an eye for detail worthy of a John McPhee or William Langewiesche. He takes us not merely behind the scenes, but into the bowels of giant facilities that process a jumbo jets worth of trash every day, as well as the boardrooms of global companies who squeeze billions of dollars from stuff we leave at the curb. Junkyard Planet reveals how “going green” has become a lucrative and internationally influential business — and also how environmentally abusive the process can be at the nitty-gritty end: Minter also shows us the back streets where Chinese workers melt down the circuits of tossed-out cellphones.
Tracing the export of Americas garbage — and the massive profits that China and other rising nations earn from it — Minter spins a tale that's both engaging, colorful, and troubling. Our profligacy with stuff brings home the decline of the American economy and the ascent of the developing world. Junkyard Planet reveals that Americans might need to learn a smarter way to take out the trash.
“A satisfying investigation-cum-travelogue.” Mother Jones
“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
How can garbage turn into gold? What does recycling have to do with globalization? Where does all that stuff we throw away go, anyway?
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."
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.