By Adam Minter
SHANGHAI, China -- I thought long and hard about how to do justice to Jim's generous invitation to guest blog, and finally settled on doing what I occasionally do at my own blog: throw some trash around and try to convince my readers that I haven't. My hope is that, by the end of the week, this will sound a little less mad than it does at the beginning.
Below, a photo of a woman recycling a piece of imported American scrap metal inside of an industrial-scale motor scrap recycling (and copper smelting) operation south of Shanghai.
First, workers, like this woman, skilled in efficiently breaking apart complicated pieces of American throwaways into their recyclable components, are highly sought by China's vast and thriving scrap metal industry (which accounts for roughly 25% of Chinese aluminum production, 40% of copper production, and 15% of steel). On China's East coast, she can expect to earn roughly RMB 3500 - or nearly US$500/month, and choose her place of employment. That's better pay than the average Chinese university graduate (for example, I'm acquainted with a 28-year-old Shanghainese mechanical engineer with a Canadian master's degree who earns "under RMB 4000/month"). He doesn't have the job security of the motor breaker's co-workers.
In general, this is how things work when American recycling gets shipped abroad, and how they'll work in forthcoming editions of 24/7 Wasted.