Sunday, November 15, 2015

China's Impact on Local Metal Scavenging

Living on a busy street may not be everyone's idea of happiness, but for someone who hates to see things go to waste, it offers a chance to contribute to the recycling of scrap metal. In my neighborhood, I play the role gravity plays in a watershed, transporting discarded metal objects from side streets out to my curb along the main artery, where they are more likely to be swept away by scrap metal guys who periodically drive by.

When China's economy was cooking, and scrap metal prices were high from overseas demand, this metal would have disappeared within hours. Recently, it took five days--an unheard-of lag time on Harrison Street. Maybe we have a new indicator of economic conditions overseas. No need to listen to business reports. China's economic downturn can be read right here on a Princeton curb.

On the other hand, even though it takes more than 100 pounds of steel to make a dollar at a junkyard, this rusty file cabinet was gone in a day. Maybe someone really needed a file cabinet, rusty or not.

I have one of the scrap guys' number, and could call him up, but that would likely cause him to go out of his way to come by, burning more gas. There's satisfaction in feeding the serendipity of others by giving these otherwise landfill-bound hunks of metal a chance to circle back into usefulness.

(For some scrap metal talk, with a dramatic chart showing how prices have dropped by half this year, here's an article. Its commodity-talk brought back memories of my school cafeteria, where a black and white TV hung above one of the tables, bearing the latest up or down in hog futures as I ate my liverwurst and lettuce sandwich.)

No comments: