Scenes from a Junkyard Planet: Hunks of Scrap, Day 1

During the run-up to the November 12 release of my first book, Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion Dollar Trash Trade, every weekday I’m posting a new photo taken during my decade of reporting on the global waste, recycling, refurbishment, and repair trade. Today’s image was suggested by wife who expressed concern that last week’s images – especially Friday’s – verged on the dull. As a result, I have no choice but to juice up this ongoing blog series with a week-long set of photos that I’m going to call the “Hunks of Scrap.” As always, click to enlarge.


This ripped gentleman – he goes by the single name “Chinh” – was photographed at his Saigon-area scrap yard in 2007. How, you may be wondering, does one acquire such a physique working at a scrap yard? Well, if you spend your days picking up heavy steel rods, you’re bound to develop some tone, eventually. And that’s what Chinh and his employees spend their days doing: picking up heavy steel reinforcing bars (like those in the background), heating them in furnaces, and then running that heated steel through machines that roll it into new bars (a process seen in part in the August 16 Scene from a Junkyard Planet). But why, it’s fair to ask, is Chinh wandering around his scrap yard shirtless? Two reasons, so far as I could tell: a) furnaces raise the temperatures at Chinh’s plant to shirtless temperatures (unless you’re working with those furnaces); and b) wouldn’t you?

A note to readers: Scenes from Junkyard Planet is proudly sourced from my archive of thousands of scrap recycling photos taken around the world over the last decade. But this week – and this week only – I’m open to publishing images submitted by readers who work in the recycling industry. Just please make sure that you own the images, and you aren’t posed doing anything you wouldn’t want your employer or local safety inspector to see. Be warned: my wife makes the final call on what makes it to the site. Send submissions to ShanghaiScrap at gmail com.

Previous ‘Scenes from a Junkyard Planet’ can be found here.