Much of America's recycling ends up in China. And that's not such a bad thing, according to a fascinating new book by Shanghai journalist Adam Minter. In Junkyard Planet, Minter describes how China came to be the center of the international scrap recycling universe.
Every day, container ships arrive in China's southern port city of Shenzhen, carrying pallets packed with scrap metal, plastic, and paper, all of the material that the rest of the world, and the United States in particular, can't or won't reuse. China turns the world's cast-offs into goods it sorely needs. For example, aluminum from automobile scrap gets melted and exported to Japanese car makers. Scrap plastic might end up as plastic "lumber" used to manufacture backyard decks.