Wastepaper trail leads to China
Karen Youso, Star Tribune
Would it surprise you to learn that your recycled junk mail may be on a boat to China? Or that it might make its way back to you if you purchase a boxed drill at the hardware store?
It's happening. Recycling has legs -- sea legs, in many cases -- and it is roaming far from home.
The most common destination is China, a country hungry for our "scrap" -- wastepaper, plastics and metal -- to feed its quickly developing economy.
Scrap paper is now one of the United States' top exports. Sea containers leaving U.S. ports for China today are more likely to be loaded with scrap paper than with soybeans.
Although the West Coast supplies most of China's scrap, the need is so great that even Twin Cities recyclers have shipped scrap paper, junk mail and cardboard boxes to Nine Dragons Paper mill in Dongguan, China, 7,500 miles away.
Here's how it works:
A drill is made in China. It's put into a paperboard box. Many drills are loaded onto a sea container and sent to a U.S. port, say Los Angeles or Seattle.
The drills are then loaded onto a railroad car and sent east, to Chicago or Minneapolis, and then a semitrailer truck delivers them to a hardware or home store near you.
You buy the drill, take it out of its box and put the box in the recycling bin along with your junk mail and other wastepaper.
It's collected curbside by your recycler and, with other folks' junk mail and cardboard, baled into huge cubes.
The cubes of wastepaper are loaded onto a truck or a rail car, then onto a sea container heading back to China. There, they are turned into boxes for another load of drills, dolls or doohickeys.
Karen Youso is at firstname.lastname@example.org.