It’s no secret that a lot of the West’s waste ends up in China and other far eastern countries. What you may not have realised is that a significant number of people make a living from sorting, reclaiming and reselling that waste; used plastics to packing chip factories, for example.
Or rather, they used to make a living doing it; now, scrap trading in China has fallen at the hands of the global economic slump:
Minter says the predicament is typical of the trade. “People would borrow money from relatives and buy a container of scrap and then throw all that money back in and reinvest it. Great if it goes up – but the moment it starts slipping, especially if it’s slipping 20-30%, you’re finished,” he said.
Even if you’re so hard-hearted as to think that the economic fate of Chinese scrap workers is no big deal to you, the consequences of this are going to be felt in your world too: China used to import scrap and waste from countries like the US and the UK. Now there’s no one who can make a meagre living by cleaning up behind us, we’re going to have to start doing it ourselves. [image by Paul Goyette]