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
3 September 2017
[Book] Think like an anthropologist
Think Like An Anthropologist by Matthew Engelke Pelican, August 2017, 339 pages [Start reading - Amazon link] How does anthropology help us understand who we are? What can it tell us about culture, from Melanesia to the City of London? Why …
28 April 2017
[Book] Quantitative Ethnography
Quantitative Ethnography David Williamson Shaffer Boswell Press Available April 2017 > Download Introduction > Watch video presentation This is a book about understanding why, in the digital age, the old distinctions between qualitative and quantitative research methods, between the sciences and …
21 April 2017
[Book] The Stuff of Bits – An Essay on the Materialities of Information
The Stuff of Bits: An Essay on the Materialities of Information by Paul Dourish MIT Press, May 2017 264 pages Virtual entities that populate our digital experience, like e-books, virtual worlds, and online stores, are backed by the large-scale …
5 April 2017
[Book chapter] Behavioral economics and health
Behavioral Economics and Health Judd B. Kessler and C. Yiwei Zhang Oxford Textbook of Public Health 2014 Behavioral Economics combines the insights of Economics and Psychology to identify how individuals deviate from the standard assumptions of economic theory and …
5 April 2017
Designing for the circular economy
As reported by [email protected], the London-based Agency of Design (AoD) came up with three different approaches, "each of which embodies a different strategy to designing circularity from the outset": They are (1) designing for longevity …
19 January 2017
[Report] Consuming Differently, Consuming Sustainably: Behavioural Insights for Policymaking
The objective of this report, published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is to shed light on opportunities to strengthen the effectiveness of policies for sustainable consumption in both developed and developing countries. The …
19 January 2017
[Report] Behavioural Insights at the United Nations – Achieving Agenda 2030
In 2016, the UNDP Innovation Facility collaborated with the newly engaged UN Behavioural Science Advisor to work on behaviorally-informed design with 8 UNDP Country Offices in all 5 regions: Bangladesh, Cameroon, China, Ecuador, Jordan, Moldova, …
12 January 2017
Experientia’s CITYOPT project awarded prestigious French award for its sustainable development design
Following the 2016 Smart Innovation Award at “FIMBACTE Trophées du Cadre de vie", the CITYOPT project has once again been recognized, this time in the prestigious French design competition: "Observeur du Design 2017", in 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.

4 August 2017
The human side of autonomous cars — with Nissan Research’s Melissa Cefkin

Reposted from Medium Beyond the engineering challenge of creating cars that drive themselves lies the social challenge. Before autonomous cars are ready to navigate our roads, they must be able to navigate the vastly more complicated nuances of human behaviors and interactions — from that friendly nod that says “You first” at a four-way stop, to the […]

31 May 2017
 Intervista a Todd Harple di Intel sul tech-fashion

Ripostato da Medium – English version Il mondo del fashion sta diventando sempre di più digitale — e non si tratta solo di dispositivi da indossare, ma anche e soprattutto di abbigliamento, realizzato con tessuti in cui sono effettivamente integrati dei sensori in grado di misurare e monitorare il corpo di chi li veste. Dato che la […]

8 May 2017
Why service design is the new black — Intel’s Todd Harple on fashion tech

Reposted from Medium – Versione italiana The world of fashion is becoming increasingly digital — and not just wearable devices, but with clothing made from fabrics that actually integrate sensors and technology that can monitor and measure the wearer. As fashion starts to go beyond outward appearance, fashion designers need to broaden their skillsets, to make sure […]

31 March 2017
Experientia guide to Milan Design Week 2017

It’s that time of year again – Milan’s don’t-miss event for the design community is here. If you’re looking to get inspired at Milan Design Week, then check out our top picks for the latest edition, from Experientia’s designers, strategists and partners. Milan might be best known for its busy streets, traditional cafés and world […]

12 January 2017
Experientia’s CITYOPT project awarded prestigious French award for its sustainable development design

Following the 2016 Smart Innovation Award at “FIMBACTE Trophées du Cadre de vie”, the CITYOPT project has once again been recognized, this time in the prestigious French design competition: “Observeur du Design 2017”, in the Service Design category. In June 2016, CITYOPT won the first stage of the Observeur du Design. Now the project has […]

1 December 2016
More on upcoming conference on design & sustainable innovation for smart cities

Last month Putting People First announced the upcoming conference on design & sustainable innovation for smart cities in Nice France. Meanwhile we are pleased to announce the full event agenda (see below). This event will feature professionals from leading research institutes and industry gathering to present key initiatives which combine Energy Efficiency and Service Design […]

See all articles