I recently opined, on EconLib, about recycling.
Got home from Santa Fe, and my lovely wife immediately went and got an article she had been saving, from the Raleigh paper. Turns out people are "recycling" a heck of a lot of iron, steel, and copper because they love the earth. NOT! It's because it has value. People are actually scouring the hinterlands for old tractor parts, radiators, and so on.
An 80-year-old man with heart trouble spends his days bouncing over the Johnston County back roads, hunting for rusty farm equipment....
Blame the invisible hand of scrap metal economics, which drives a global hunger for recycled junk that stretches to bridge-building in India and apartment construction in China. The tiniest, rustiest bit of metal discarded or stolen in the Triangle is wrapped up in a powerful global market that connects junkmen, recyclers and thieves with a construction boom in east Asia.
This week, TT&E Iron & Metal in Garner will send four 50,000-pound loads of scrap metal to China. Last week, Raleigh Metals Processing got an e-mail message seeking up to 2,500 tons of scrap for construction projects in India, Dubai and Singapore.
The demand means that old copper pays about $2.85 a pound in the Triangle -- up from less than a dollar just five years ago.
"You used to see people bringing stuff to landfills; now they bring it here," said TT&E's Scott Thompson, who has seen daily customers rise from 150 a day to 250. "Right now, there doesn't seem to be any end to it."
...Sixty percent of the average car is recycled metal, said Chuck Carr, spokesman for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries in Washington.
Nationwide, the industry recycles 150 million tons of scrap each year, sending 25 percent overseas but keeping massive amounts for construction at home. It's cheaper and cleaner to recycle metal, and in China's case, there isn't much raw metal on hand.
"We're the Saudi Arabia of scrap," Carr said. "We produce far more than we can use."
No, there is "no end" to the incentive to reuse and recycle things, so long as you can make money by doing it. And, the fact that you can make money doing it means that you are saving resources. I love recycling! And I love my wife, for saving the article.
Later, I gave her the silver necklace, with turquoise and lapis lazuli, I had purchased for her at the Santa Fe street market. It was made by Frank Chee and his wife, in Vanderwagon (They are Dine Navajo).
And I said, "Dear, when I see jewelry, I think of you!"
Her response was, "Dear, when I see an article about garbage, I think of YOU!"
For some reason, this appeared to amuse her considerably. But the necklace had the desired effect on her, so I have no complaints.