Cargoland: The billion-dollar trash trade

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Automobile scrap (photo by Adam Minter)

Did you know one of the biggest exports through the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach is junk?

In economic terms, we call them recyclables. Most are going to China to be reused or refashioned into goods that country will then turn around and sell back to us.

All this week we’ve been hearing about the various activities that take place at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach in our series Cargoland. About 40 percent of all U.S. imports arrive through the two ports.

They’re part of a multi-trillion dollar global exchange, bringing in millions of tons of goods from China in 14.1 million containers a year.

But what happens to those containers after they are emptied? We asked Adam Minter, an Asia-based correspondent for Bloomberg Global View and author of the book “Junkyard Planet,” who tells us the story of what gets put in those empty containers, and where it all ends up.