Don’t Trust the UN with Your Recycling (rates).

Every week I receive at least one query asking me for pointers on finding statistics regarding how much China recycles on an annual basis. And, for the most part, my answer is the same: check Google, or check the trade publications. For example, a simple google search will reveal that China generated and recycled around 90 million metric tons of iron and steel scrap in 2010a volume greater than the steel produced in all but two countries (China and Japan). And if you’re lucky enough to have a subscription to Scrap Magazine, or Recycling International, you would’ve learned, in the Jan/Feb issues of both magazines, respectively, that China generated and recycled 2.32 million metric tons of its own – not imported! – aluminum in 2009 – a volume greater than the total steel manufactured in all but two countries (China and Russia). Below, an image taken at a large-scale, highly efficient aluminum scrap processing operation in South China (by me).

So one would reason, I think, that if an organization – say, the United Nations Environmental Programme – were interested in conducting a study to determine the worldwide recycling rates of all of the metals on the periodic table, that organization would want to get some Chinese experts – industry, government, trade associations – in on the preparation. And that’s precisely what the United Nations Environment Programme claimed to do when, two weeks ago, it released a study claiming to show global rates of recycling for metals. The report is downloadable, and it includes this very simple explanation of its methodology: Continue reading

“Want some chocolate, handsome?”

On October 28 the Shanghai Daily ran what now stands as my favorite headline in the history of journalism:

doped-chocolate sex heists

The headline isn’t the best part, though. That honor is reserved for the story itself, which goes something like this: last year, the five individuals in the above photo began working as prostitutes in Shanghai. One day, one prostitute noticed that another was taking prescription sedatives for a sleeping disorder. A plot soon emerged: “let’s make some chocolate, lace it with those sedatives, and feed it to clients with the intention of robbing them after they collapse.” A winning concept, for sure (!), that succeeded on at least two occasions, and would have succeeded on a third had someone not been caught using a victim’s credit card at a cosmetics shop. Continue reading

How many IOC members watch Oprah?

[To non-IOC members who also haven’t heard of her, here’s a wiki to help you along]

An official, non-China-related Shanghai Scrap tirade:

I’ve traveled widely – perhaps, not as widely as some of my colleagues – but widely enough to know a few things. First, never exchange money at an airport; two, always pack single cup packets of instant coffee; and three, nobody outside of the United States has ever heard of Oprah Winfrey.

It’s this latter lesson that I’d like to discuss, briefly, as a result of the fact that many (US) commentators are shocked that the International Olympic Committee [IOC] had the nerve to snub her and – by the way, the Obamas – in turning down Chicago’s bid for the 2016 Olympics (full disclosure: I love Chicago). The AP, for example, raised a headline announcing that “Chicago, Obama, and Oprah lose in powerful Olympic bid.” And the otherwise sober-minded Gene Wojciechowski of ESPN writes: “The two Obamas. Oprah. David Robinson. Daley. That’s a pretty impressive starting five for schmoozing.”

Yes, it is Gene … if you’re schmoozing a group of US Olympic Committee members in hopes of landing the 2016 USOC trials. Continue reading

Yes, we have no scrap, pt. III

As noted in previous posts, Shanghai Scrap is the lucky beneficiary of misdirected scrap metal, paper, and plastic inquiries from around the world. As also noted in previous posts, I reserve the right to re-print these sometimes ridiculous, but always interesting, inquiries (with the solicitor’s name, if the email is clearly identifiable as scrap spam). So, with that in mind, an inquiry received last night from an IP address in Sana, Yemen:


Dear Ahmed: I haven’t the slightest. But perhaps one of my readers will (come to think of it, I’d like to know). In the meantime, I want to thank you for this rare insight into Sana’s waste stream. Who would’ve guessed that Yemen is home to three Boeing aircraft in need of scrapping? Wow! If you care to send more details about this issue – say, perhaps, whether the planes in question were for military, private, or commercial use – I’d be happy to update this post. As it happens, a few years ago I actually met the GM of a Sana-area scrap yard (he wore an electric blue suit), but that story will have to wait for a day when I’m not under deadline pressure. Until then …

Even Better Than the Real Thing: A Shanghai Scrap Correction!

Earlier this week, Shanghai Scrap told you all about the torturous path that Shanghai’s 19th century Carmelite convent has taken, from after-thought on the Shanghai Film Studio lot, to (apparently) a renovated museum at the redeveloped Shanghai Film Centre . The full account can be found here.

Foolish, foolish me.

This afternoon I happened to have lunch with somebody who has knowledge of this project, and this person chuckled when I mentioned how wonderful it was that somebody in Shanghai’s bureaucracy cares enough about the city’s history to save one of its oldest (1874!) buildings. Why the chuckle? “No, no, Adam, they are knocking it down and rebuilding it on the old foundation. It will be a new version of the old convent. It’s much cheaper this way. Restoring it would take too much time and money.” That is to say, the museum/convent shown on the blueprints for the Film Centre is a new building, built to resemble an 1874 building. It is not a renovation or preservation. Below, a photo taken at 5:00 PM, today, of the current state of this “preservation effort.” Note how the roof is disappearing (and yes, that’s scrap from the ongoing demolition/”restoration”).


Sadly, this shouldn’t surprise anyone – especially, me – who’s spent any time watching¬† Shanghainese preservation efforts. Indeed, some of the city’s most celebrated “historic” sites, including the Jing’an Temple and Xintiandi, are poor facsimiles of historic properties demolished to make way for commercial development. That is to say, the original structures have been torn down and replaced with new ones (in the case of the Jing’an Temple, a new temple atop a shopping mall complete with a pirate dvd shop) that the developers, and the city, then market as historical. Continue reading

How to absolve yourself of negligence in forty words or less.

Below, a minor classic in the under-appreciated art of pinning blame for a workplace accident on the injured party. The complicated and highly refined nature of this craft makes solo performances exceedingly rare, and this instance is no exception: for here we have a stark duet, between the city agency responsible for running the Shanghai New International Expo Center, and the state-owned news agency which covers it. From Monday’s Shanghai Daily:

Rumor has it that he wasn’t wearing socks, either, though there is some question as to whether warm feet would have prevented him from being crushed by the several ton sign.

One World, One Dream, and One Very Well-Staged Olympic PR Photo

A bit under the weather these last few days … and it probably has nothing to do with this photo – and caption – that ran in China Daily on Saturday:

I’ve discussed this at length with two people who appreciate these things, and we all agree that this very good photo would have risen to the level of masterpiece if – instead of holding a guide for the disabled – the blind person was posing with one of the new Olympic Bibles (albeit, a braile version, while riding atop a wind-powered high-speed train through a security checkpoint manned by applauding members of the French parliament). Still, “ethnic minority volunteers” was a nice start.

Better content available when I’m back on my feet.

[UPDATE: A regular correspondent writes to point out that the photo lacks a panda. Good point.]