Excerpts from JUNKYARD PLANET have been published in:
Bloomberg Businessweek (August 29, 2013): “To a Chinese Scrap-Metal Hunter, America’s Trash is Treasure”
For Americans who care about recycling and preserving resources, the most important thing to know about low-grade scrap is this: It’d end up in a landfill if it weren’t exported. Demand for copper in the U.S. is too low, and labor is too expensive, to be worth any scrap yard’s time…
The Atlantic (November 1, 2013): “How China Profits From Our Junk”
To be honest, I was shocked by the number of people who worked in these scrapyards, and by their low pay. But I was not shocked by the menial jobs, and I was not surprised by the pollution. After all, my grandmother and her siblings cleaned metal into adulthood, and her younger brother, Leonard, told me that he knew how to “break” a motor—that is, take it apart with hammers and pliers, and extract the copper—as well as anybody in the Twin Cities. That’s what you do when you’ve got nothing else— and their generation didn’t have much else.
That wasn’t the only thing the Chinese and my family had in common.