19 January 2014

[Book] Junkyard Planet

Be the first to share

Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade
by Adam Minter
Bloomsbury Publishing
2013, 304 pages
[Amazon linkvideo]

Abstract

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.

Reviews

“Having made the reasonable observation that consumption causes waste even more surely than it causes recycling, Mr. Minter’s pragmatism reasserts itself. “If the goal is a realistic sustainable future,” he writes, “then it’s necessary to take a look at what we can do to lengthen the lives of the products we’re going to buy anyway.” He cites several products that could be made more easily reusable or recyclable. Apple’s MacBook Air, for example, is so meticulously compressed that taking it apart and sorting out its component raw materials is bound to be dauntingly inefficient. Consumers should, Mr. Minter says, object to this kind of planned obsolescence.”
Erica Grieder, Wall Street Journal – Dec 20, 2013

“By 2017, according to the Solving the E-Waste Problem (Step) initiative, a UN-supported project, each person on the planet will discard a third more electronic waste than in 2012, a grand total by then of 64.4m tonnes. Much of it will be shipped from the affluent world to developing countries for cheap reprocessing, a pattern of trade that Step defines as a problem. Adam Minter, a journalist and son of a US scrapyard entrepreneur, would disagree. Minter does not see the global scrap trade as a morality tale of villain and victim, but a vibrant and eco-friendly business, a core component of the world economy.”
Isabel Hilton, The Guardian – 18 January 2014

“As Junkyard Planet shows, the commercial recycling industry does put others’ trash to the most productive use possible. But recycling is no “get out of jail free card” for those who, as Minter puts it, find consuming “more fun than conserving”.”
Sarah Mishkin, Financial Times – January 3, 2014

Be the first to share
11 August 2015
[Book] Aging and the Digital Life Course
Aging and the Digital Life Course Edited by David Prendergast and Chiara Garattini Series: Life Course, Culture and Aging: Global Transformations Publisher: Berghahn Books (June 30, 2015) Hardcover, 289 pages Abstract Across the life course, new forms of community, ways of …
31 July 2015
[Book] Excited to announce the new book by John Thackara
How to thrive in the next economy by John Thackara Thames & Hudson August 2015, 192pp Abstract Drawing on a lifetime of travel in search of real-world alternatives that work, I describe how communities the world over are creating a …
18 July 2015
LSE anthropologist: microcredit only adds to poverty
Far from being a panacea, small loans add to poverty and undermine people by saddling them with unsustainable debt, argues anthropologist Dr. Jason Hickel of the London School of Economics: What’s so fascinating about the microfinance …
17 July 2015
Using collective intelligence to solve complex societal issues
Acclaimed anthropologist Stefana Broadbent leads a new "Collective Intelligence" unit at Nesta, the UK innovation charity, that is "looking at ways to support the emergence of Collective Intelligence to solve complex societal issues". More concretely, they …
14 July 2015
The ethics of digital design
Designers, writes Cennydd Bowles in a Design Council opinion piece, have a central role in safeguarding digital products so they not only empower but also protect users. This responsibility starts with designers’ own output. Design teams …
14 July 2015
Smart Cities will know everything about you
So, asks consultant Mike Weston, how can marketers cash in without becoming enemies of the people? Weston writes that the law will be too slow to catch up with digital innovations and that businesses in a …
13 July 2015
Why are microwave ovens all so difficult to use?
The first ‘science oven’, launched in 1967, was simple to use but then digital interfaces came along and made things worse. The real problem, according to Charles Arthur, is that microwave ovens live too long. …
2 July 2015
Getting citizens involved in protecting fragile energy environments
A new project funded under the FP7 European Commission framework is getting citizens involved in testing new tools for reducing energy consumption during peak loads, in the hope that its pilot program will set the …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

2 July 2015
Getting citizens involved in protecting fragile energy environments

A new project funded under the FP7 European Commission framework is getting citizens involved in testing new tools for reducing energy consumption during peak loads, in the hope that its pilot program will set the new state of the art for protecting locations with fragile electricity supplies. One of France’s most fragile regions The Provence-Alpes-Côte […]

5 May 2015
Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록 in Design 4 Disaster

Design 4 Disaster features an engaging illustrated safety manual for ship passengers, a personal project by Experientia designer Dohun YuLuck Jang 유록. After the Korean ferry accident last year, Yuluck (who is Korean) wanted to find a way to make safety manuals more interesting to read. He spent one year designing an interactive safety guide […]

16 March 2015
Better Health and Wellbeing: Giving the elderly in Singapore sparkling golden years

Invitation: sharing session, Singapore, 30 March 2015   What are the hopes and fears of the elderly in Singapore? How can designers offer solutions that support the elderly in managing their health and wellness? What can healthcare professionals do to help them keep active? What role can technology play in the elderly’s daily lives? Design consultants […]

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
21 December 2014
Experientia’s Twitter feed live

Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]

19 December 2014
Putting People First blog redesigned

Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.

See all articles