What’s it about?
Junkyard Planet is about the global scrap trade. It’s an industry I knew nothing about before I read the book; now I feel like I have an at least rudimentary grasp of it. Scrapyards are amazing places. My favorite story to repeat is about car recycling: before 1958, there was no effective way to recycle a car – they were left to rot or they were burnt. In 1958 a machine to shred cars – thus making their metal available to sell – was invented. In 2007, the backlog of all the abandoned cars in the US was finally finished. America got caught up. The industry is largely in China these days; it can cost less to ship a container of recycled metal to China from LA than to ship a train car full of it to the East Coast.
Why should you read it?
It’s fascinating. Junkyard Planet was much more engrossing than I thought it was going to be. It hits the recycle loop of reduce, reuse, recycle. Where does all the stuff go? How does recycling help reduce mining and drilling and logging? What can be recycled? But he also explains that reduce, reuse, recycle is a list of ordered terms. If you want to go green, reducing your consumption is more important than reusing what you have, and then recycling. Recycling alone can’t save the world.
May I suggest that you read the WSJ’s business-focused review of Junkyard Planet? I try to keep these short; they have lots more space.