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Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade MP3 CD – Audiobook, 12 Nov 2013

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--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product details

  • MP3 CD
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio; MP3 Una edition (12 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1480592870
  • ISBN-13: 978-1480592872
  • Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 1.3 x 19 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,945,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Minter successfully resists oversimplifying the issue China currently faces - with a growing middle class demanding more raw material for new construction, the options are living with the pollution caused by recycling or the environmental consequences of mining for raw materials...Minter concludes that the solution is in the first word in the phrase, 'Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.' (Publishers Weekly)

A detailed view of a mostly unknown business that touches the lives of everyone, whether or not they ever dragged a trash and/or recycle bin out to the curb. (Kirkus Reviews)

Minter is here to tell you that there's big money to be made in what American consumers and industries throw away. As he travels the world from Houston to Guangzhou, surveying the debris and discards that fill scrap yards and warehouses, Minter takes the reader into a world of commodities trading that is every bit as lucrative and cutthroat as anything on Wall Street. The son of a scrap man, Minter brings an insider's knowledge and appreciation for an industry that no one thinks about, everyone contributes to, and a lucky few profit from. (Booklist)

A satisfying investigation-cum-travelogue. (Mother Jones)

Fascinating. (Atlantic Cities)

Lively and entertaining...Junkyard Planet is a book for anyone interested in the environment, the economics of recycling, or a thoughtful look at the consumption we take for granted. (Brooklyn Bugle)

Eye-opening. [Minter is] an excellent guide to this sprawling and bewildering trade. (Wall Street Journal)

Superbly researched. (Financial Times) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

How can garbage turn into gold? What does recycling have to do with globalization? Where does all that stuff we throw away go, anyway? --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a book only Adam Minter could write. As detailed in Junkyard Planet, he is the great-grandson of a Russian scrap picker (think Steptoe and Son) and his family has been involved in the business ever since. Minter himself worked in the family scrap yard as a young adult, but after some family drama (involving his dad, as described in the book) he set off to become a journalist... a scrap journalist in China, to be precise. Looks like scrap never leaves your blood.

Minter has been in China for over a decade, and his personal involvement and knowledge of scrap has gained him incredible access into an industry everyone contributes to but few people know much about. He takes us to Christmas light recycling facilities and car shredders, to Chinese plastics recycling towns to municipal recycling plants in Texas. Along the way, we meet a wonderful group of characters - my favorite was Leonard Fritz, who grew up very poor in Detroit in the 1930s, and scrapped his way to wealth. Also memorable is a Chinese scrap trader who spends his days driving across the United States in search of American scrap to send to China - Minter spends a prolonged period on the road, and what results is a story of globalization and personal fortitude. What makes Junkyard Planet so enjoyable (instead of a dry text on scrap) is the affection Minter has for these people, and his sympathy for the industry. He doesn't shy away from the industry's problems either (pollution, etc) and tries to present a balanced look at the good and bad.

All in all, a bloody good look at an important industry. I only wish that Minter had taken a look at some UK/European scrap yards and characters (the book is very much focused on US/Asia, though that doesn't make it irrelevant to others).
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Format: Hardcover
Shows how ‘going green’ creates new money-making opportunities, and that’s is why it is frequently the most sustainable option. Argues that while the developing world tends to recognise this value, but America has yet ‘to learn a smarter way to take out the trash.’ In many ways the future of society as we know it depends on responding positively to these challenges, and time is not on our side.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By William Jordan on 30 Aug. 2014
Format: Hardcover
This is a fascinating book about global recycling - what's done in the USA what's done in China, where the demand is, what the alternative is (eg more mining of copper etc), and what happens when there's a global crisis in 2008 (a lot of broken contracts). Some is good some is bad some is ugly esp plastics and electronics recycling in china. Above all, the entirety if the book just tells us about the smooth workings of the global economy....

My one reservation would be: it's a bit long - but I did reward through to the end with interest.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Miran Ali VINE VOICE on 6 Mar. 2014
Format: Hardcover
Sorry but my review's a bit of a spoiler. The whole book is about the recycling industry and about how waste from the US is shipped to China and recycled. The author has long digressions into his family's history in the scrap business in the US and reminisce about his childhood. This would have made a much better National Geographic series, like Peter Hessler on China's factory girls. But as it stands the book is far too long and repetitive. Bottom line: consume less, reuse and recycle. Most people already knew that.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 109 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
Reduce, reuse and recycle 27 Nov. 2013
By James Denny - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The saying, "one man's junk is another man's treasure," could easily be an alternative title to Adam Minter's "Junkyard Planet."

Junkyard Planet will get you thinking about everything that you use, especially those items which you do not use up. So where does this stuff go? Well, a lot of it gets exported overseas, especially to China, where the need for scrap metal, scrap paper and scrap plastic is high. Recyclables are headed to places where the need for raw materials is not met by the amount of scrap generated in-country and where the cost of virgin materials is considerably higher.

There is value in scrap. It will be found in those places where the costs of sorting, separating and cleaning it, along with transport, is lower than its value in reuse or in recycled materials. The margin or difference in cost is where money is.

One of most important principles Minter espouses is, "the worst, dirtiest recycling is still better than the very best clear-cut forest or the most up-to-date open-pit mine." In other words, most low grade scrap would end up in a landfill if it were not exported to a place where its future value is above the cost of recycling and transport.

Adam Minter knows his subject well. He was brought up in a Minnesota family with a modestly-sized family recycling business. He understands the terminology, the business process, how scrapping works. Metals were the key material in his parents family business. Minter's travels take him across the United States and Asia, to China in particular. With the rapid rise of the Chinese economy, it is China most of all, where international recycling is in full form. As China's economy moves from third-world to first-world stature, the amount of construction going on and infrastructure development is staggering. China is a nation mostly poor in resources. It is with the help of trans-shipped recyclables that China is vaulting ahead.

Junkyard Planet gives readers a lot to think about. Five stars!
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Surprisingly Good! 22 Nov. 2013
By TopCat19 - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book from start to finish, it's been a while since I've enjoyed a non-fiction book this much. I read an excerpt a few months ago and it really whetted my appetite, and I wasn't disappointed after reading it. First of all, it's a very readable book, and it's not bogged down by excessive statistics. Of course, just from the nature of the subject, some stats are necessary, but he handles it with a deft touch. In some hands, recycling statistics could be deadly. While he makes it all very interesting, what I especially enjoyed was the way he constantly brought in the human element, with many interesting and informative individuals. It was a constant treat to meet some of the people behind the scenes. I'm not really equipped to analyse his writing style, but I was impressed at how easy (and fun!) it was to read. For me, this is the best type of non-fiction, informative and fun at the same time. Adam Minter hit this one out of the park.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Economics of The Global Scrap Trade 1 Feb. 2014
By Frederick S. Goethel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The scrap yards that I remember from my youth were what the author refers to as auto junkyards. I always believed they were the one and only place where scrap went, whether it was a car being sold in pieces or put into a crusher and turned into a pile of junk metal. I never really knew that there were places that specialized in other types of scrap, but I soon learned about the long history of scrap yards as I read this book.

The author takes the reader on a tour of the various types of scrap that exist. From electrical wire, to electric motors, to plastics, to cars and to steel and aluminum and many more, each type of scrap has a market and a place in the recycling pecking order. In addition, there are places in China that specialize in each of these types of scrap.

Our garbage is China's, and to a lesser extent, India's raw materials from which new products spring. Each has a growing economy and a developing middle class that wants the same goods that are present in the United States. In addition, we are still addicted to buying inexpensive merchandise from China and the "raw" materials have to come from somewhere. The easiest way to obtain those goods is to come to the United States and buy them from recyclers and scrap dealers.

Although that would seem to be an expensive proposition; buying a container of scrap, shipping it to China and then separating it into useful parts, nothing could be further from the truth. The containers travel back to China virtually free. The shipping companies have to get the ships and containers back to China, and they would get nothing for an empty one way trip, so they offer deep discount shipping to get something to help cover the cost of fuel. And, getting the product ready is also inexpensive as labor in developing countries is also cheap.

The author made several points worth pondering. One, if the developing world didn't buy our scrap, it would end up in landfills, filling them more quickly and burying materials that have significant value. In addition, by buying our scrap, these countries are not opening mines to find the raw materials, which saves the environment and cuts greenhouse gas emissions. Imagine how many emissions would come from a copper mine, where 100 tons of material have to be moved to extract one ton of copper ore. Although the methods of stripping wire, or melting plastic in China are hardly ideal, they beat the various alternatives available.

The final take away from this book is that it is best to reduce your purchasing habits, then to reuse items as much as possible, and only then to recycle. It certainly opened my eyes. In addition, I found the book to be wonderful read. The author wrote well, and despite some redundancy, the book is full of important information. I cannot recommend it highly enough!
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Excellent book on the scrap and recycling industry here in the U.S. and abroad 18 Nov. 2013
By George - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been in the scrap industry for a number of years and this book is an excellent read. Extremely insightful to all aspects of the trade, good and bad.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
interesting, informative, and well-written 15 Feb. 2014
By Angela Reis - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Way more interesting than I thought it would be! This is globalization and enviromentalism at their complicated intersection. I was vaguely aware of the recycling/reuse industry, but the author put forth an exploration and explanation of in the industry that was far more enlightening than anything I've seen about the subject.

Adam Minter it incredibly well informed, and he's a great writer. He's personally experienced and witnessed the many different pieces of the trash trade, both in America and China, the two principal players in the industry (having grown up in the trade in America and lived in China for the last decade covering it as a journalist).

The best part is that Minter doesn't stand in judgement, either way, of the trash trade. There are pros that are very good and cons that are both bad and very scary ugly, and he is clearly torn in deciding how to feel about it. His thesis is that it's important, however good or ugly it is, and we American would do well to educate ourselves about it. And I couldn't agree more.

I received this book as part of the GoodReads FirstReads program.
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