Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter


Adam Minter’s dad was a scrap dealer. His grandfather and grandmother ran a junkyard. It’s in his blood. And in this fantastic book, he lays out the networks of the global 21st century junk trade.
If you have any interest in how goods move around the world, in the hidden drivers of world commerce, any interest in the growth of China, this book is invaluable.
In one part of the book, Adam follows around a Chinese scrap buyer who’s traveling throughout the US, going from scrap yard to scrap yard, buying containers of metal and shipping them back to China. Based on what the buyer and his partner pay for the scrap, the global price of copper feels it, given how many containers of copper scrap, bales of Christmas tree light wire, are shipped back to China.
Another interesting factoid that I gleaned from book had to do with the cost of shipping. Because of the trade imbalance between China and the US, shipping companies run the risk of having ships sail partially empty from the US to China. So those companies give a really steep discount to anyone shipping bulk from the US to China. This works in the scrap dealers’ favor.
This is also the story of the innovators and entrepreneurs on both sides of the Pacific who are coming up with new ways, new ideas, new machines to sort through the scrap in order to make as much money as possible from things that have been thrown away.
A well-written and fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the world economy.
Highest recommendation.

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