Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade by Adam Minter is amusing, terrifying, inspiring, infuriating and depressing. Not the book itself, which is wonderful: Minter is an accomplished journalist with a unique understanding of his subject matter – junkyards, scrapyards, recycling, reuse, landfills, trash and garbage, secondhand throughout the world – because he grew up in his family’s Minneapolis, Minnesota, US scrapyard. All those other adjectives because Junkyard Planet so compellingly exposes the worst of capitalist excess. Western cultures WASTE resources on an immeasurable scale, and maintain an enraging, ill-informed insistence that Western solutions to global challenges, which often truthfully are generated and propelled by Western societies in the first place, are the only appropriate ones. In a trash can, Western cultures, and a growing number of cultures influenced by Western values, use too many original raw resources to sustain rational levels of production and consumption before the unhealthful consequences to the Earth’s ecosystem may be irreversible. There are countermeasures, but governments often lack the will to implement them, and too few manufacturers are willing to make them profitable.
And then we compound the horror with completely inadequate disposal mechanisms for finished products. Waste management throughout the world is haphazard. Even the most technologically-advanced solutions, for example car shredders which Minter adores, can’t necessarily keep pace with demand. Some solutions which could keep pace are sabotaged by NIMBYism, rightly or wrongly, or corporate disinformation campaigns.
Minter’s book is a call to arms.
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