SHANGHAI, China -- This is the last of seven posts that I'm calling Wasted 7/7. Previous in the series: 1/7, 2/7, 3/7, 4/7, 5/7 and 6/7.
Below, a photo of a storage room containing samples of everything of value that a Chinese scrap yard can import from the United States and Europe, located in Foshan, China.
The owner of this collection of (what appears to be) old junk acquired it over more than a decade, saving for himself two small sections of old power cable imported from an electric utility in Minneapolis, or two of the thousands of scrapped water meters he once bought and imported in Los Angeles. With his staff, he'd pull apart one cable sample, one single water meter, weigh all of the pieces, and then carefully note the percentage of copper, plastic, steel and whatever else made the cable, a cable, and a water meter, a water meter, on a sticker that he fixed to the samples that he didn't break apart. In that way, he could then precisely determine the value of the scrap, based upon current commodity prices.
The result is that, today, he has one of the world's best scrap metal sample rooms - and a deeper library for understanding the value of what Americans throw away, than (quite likely) anyone in the United States.
Take, for example, below, a small fraction of shelf space in the sample room, heavy with sections of communication and power cable used in the United States, and frequently shipped to China for recycling. Note the stickers and the percentages written across them.
Adam Minter is an American writer in China. He blogs at Shanghai Scrap.
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