Adam Minter’s new book, ‘Secondhand’ paints a detailed picture of the ‘afterlife’ of our earthly possessions. The author of ‘Junkyard Planet’, explores the problems of tracing used goods from point A to point B. Minter points out, there is little hard data on this specific topic, with used cars being the only real exception. World Bank data reveals that humans certainly are on track to generate waste at a growth rate of more than double the population growth, until 2050.
Ghana: a global reused market
The US is home to 54,000 mini storage sites, with much of the material stored, destined for garage sales or thrift stores. According to Minter, used electronics are likely to find a second home in Africa or Asia. Ghana is one of the world’s biggest markets for used goods. Repair shops and restorers have a ratio over retail stores at almost 100 to 1. Above all, he estimates that upwards of 80% of e-scrap in Ghana is generated domestically and not imported. Minter also argues that his visits and experiences show that their recycling practices are not primitive. Ghana operators rather regularly visit the US and trade in used laptops and parts.
Minter believes the perception that exporters of used goods are morally suspect needs to be challenged. More efficient western programmes in recycling mean that the quality of stuff that does arrive in Ghana is not as good as it was.
‘Secondhand’ explores new businesses like ‘Empty the Nest’ and ‘Gentle Transitions’ and how they have tapped into people’s habits when moving to a new house. Interestingly people are ‘decluttering’ as they get get closer to the end of their lives. This recent phenomenon of ‘Shukatsu’ or preparing for the end is explored in detail . Big business in Asia, in Japan the second hand industry was worth US$16million in 2016. This represents almost 5% of the country’s retail market.
With the aging population in Australia we can see these global trends already. The aging population gives significance to ‘Shukatsu’. Repair shops and restorers will also grow significantly as a result of Australia’s population growth