Adam Minter. Bloomsbury. €22.99.
Where there’s junk there’s brass is the message here from Minter as he travels through the global trash trade. The journalist author also happens to be the son of a junkyard owner and is clearly fascinated by an industry he says is valued at $500 billion (€366bn).
The recycling and reclamation industry pre-dates globalisation, he notes, and in the developing world is one of the few entrepreneurial opportunities available to people without capital. He traces the export of America’s recyclables and the massive profits that China and other fast-growth nations earn from it and travels around the globe to see how the business works.
The primary focus of the book is on scrap metal which Minter says he decided to focus on as the world’s most recycled product – by weight – is an American automobile. The US typically recycles more than 12 million cars a year and they rarely end up in landfills. Indeed, we learn that cars played a huge part in the birth of scrapyards as a response to the environmental problem caused by abandoned car bodies cluttered and polluting US cities and the countryside.
Minter has some colourful insights into the people who run the US trash business.