In an act of macroeconomic karma, materials thrown out by Americans—broken-down auto bodies, old screws and nails, paper—accounted for $6.7 billion in exports to China in 2006, second only to aerospace products. Junkyards may conjure up images of Fred Sanford's ratty collection of castoffs. But these days, scrap dealers are part of a $65 billion industry that employs 50,000 people, who together constitute a significant arc of a virtuous circle. The demand of China's factory bosses for junk—which they recycle to make all the junk Americans buy from China—creates jobs, tamps down the growth of the trade deficit, and might help save the planet.Daniel Gross hits one of the low points--the rising price of scrap materials encourages theft, especially of easily-obtained metals like copper. Remarkably, though, Gross misses the truly dark side of the trade: e-waste. Not all our trash is being turned into treasure. Not yet, at least.
Sep 8, 2007
Is China's second-largest American import. No, we're not talking about Paris Hilton videos: