Scenes from a Junkyard Planet: Hammer Time

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 Scene shows a Toyota official standing next to the means of automobile destruction.


Taken in 2009, this image shows two automobile shredder hammers (and this image shows what those hammers can accomplish). The one on the right weighs 120 kg (264 lb), and hasn’t been used yet. Soon, though, it’ll be installed in one of Toyota Metal’s two automobile shredders (here’s one from Tuesday’s Scene), where it’ll join probably two dozen others in spinning around several times per second as cars are fed to it. Those cars, no surprise, are reduced to fist-sized hunks. According to one shredder manufacturer, every ton of car that runs through a shredder chews away one kilogram (2.2 lbs) of shredder. Thus, we have the hammer on the left, reduced and retired from a career spent destroying test vehicles. In effect, the machine destroys itself, constantly, while destroying cars that nobody wants, anymore. It’s a bleak thought – but so long as we want new cars rather than used ones, it’s a bleak thought that’s made the planet a cleaner, greener place.