on 11 March 2014
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).
on 1 July 2015
This book is a novelized form of the author's life AND the garbage business. Unfortunately, the information about the latter is exceptionally watered down.
I couldn't care less about, say, which shirt and trousers people in the business dress. Yet, he goes on and on talking about the people, their personality, their stories, his stories... It's excruciating.
You could cut this book to a tenth, and the substance would be the same; not that it's bad information - the essence is interesting - it's just too much... garbage.
I had to stop after a few chapters.
on 1 November 2014
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.
on 30 August 2014
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.
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.