David Autor, professor of economics at MIT, did not take an economics class until he was 28. But in the years since he has produced groundbreaking work on the effects on American workers of China’s extraordinary rise. Economists had generally assumed that the negative effects for rich-country workers of trade with poorer countries would not be of much consequence. A series of papers that Mr Autor wrote with collaborators painted a very different picture
Numerous Chinese millionaires were minted as recycling businesses started and blossomed. Sure, they paid for the world’s plastic and paper trash, but they made far more money from processing it and selling the resulting raw materials.
But last year the Chinese government dropped a bombshell on the world recycling business: It cut back almost all imports of trash. And now a lot of that plastic gets shipped to other countries that don’t have the capacity to recycle it or dispose of it safely.
A billionaire is born
In 1995, Zhang Yin started a paper recycling company in China called Nine Dragons. She would become China’s first female billionaire. China wanted scrap paper and plastic to recycle into more products, and Yin seized the market.
Martin Bourque runs one of the oldest recycling operations in the U.S. as part of theEcology Center in Berkeley, Calif. “There were brokers going around the globe buying up every scrap of plastic they could find and paying top dollar for it,” he says.
And there was this brilliant tactic to increase profits: West Coast ports in the U.S. were full of empty Chinese shipping containers that had come to deliver goods to American consumers. “So it made a lot of sense to send [waste] out though the port in an empty ship that was going back anyway,” Bourque says.
For American recyclers, it was too good a deal to pass up. Many types of plastic — bags, cups, plastic wrap, thin film — gum up sorting machines at materials recovery centers in the U.S. and is of almost no value to recyclers.
After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on the planet. But its benefits mask enormous dangers to the planet, to human health – and to culture itself
Taking in all stages of production, concrete is said to be responsible for 4-8% of the world’s CO2. Among materials, only coal, oil and gas are a greater source of greenhouse gases. Half of concrete’s CO2 emissions are created during the manufacture of clinker, the most-energy intensive part of the cement-making process.
But other environmental impacts are far less well understood. Concrete is a thirsty behemoth, sucking up almost a 10th of the world’s industrial water use. This often strains supplies for drinking and irrigation, because 75% of this consumption is in drought and water-stressed regions. In cities, concrete also adds to the heat-island effect by absorbing the warmth of the sun and trapping gases from car exhausts and air-conditioner units – though it is, at least, better than darker asphalt.
It also worsens the problem of silicosis and other respiratory diseases. The dust from wind-blown stocks and mixers contributes as much as 10% of the coarse particulate matter that chokes Delhi, where researchers found in 2015that the air pollution index at all of the 19 biggest construction sites exceeded safe levels by at least three times. Limestone quarries and cement factories are also often pollution sources, along with the trucks that ferry materials between them and building sites. At this scale, even the acquisition of sand can be catastrophic – destroying so many of the world’s beaches and river courses that this form of mining is now increasingly run by organised crime gangs and associated with murderous violence.
Over the next eight months, a sprawling investigation spilled into neighboring cities and counties, outlining a network of spas that authorities describe as brothels where women worked in poor conditions. One of those locations was Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter, Fla., where prosecutors charged New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft with two counts of soliciting prostitution, acts they say were caught on video surveillance. Mr. Kraft was one of 25 men charged in Jupiter, a slice of a broader operation in which more than 100 across the area were charged.
.. The story of how authorities wound up in a position to accuse Mr. Kraft and others begins with an unusual decision Mr. Snyder made when he first received word about the suitcases. The traditional approach would be to send in an undercover officer to determine if prostitution is taking place, arrest the people involved and “bang, it’s over,” Mr. Snyder says.
Instead, authorities mounted a more ambitious investigation that found Chinese immigrant women were working in slave-like conditions as sex workers at several South Florida spas.
Other clues about the wrongdoing included the women working at the spas only speaking dialects of Chinese. Masseuses are licensed in Florida after an exam that is only administered English and Spanish. Many of the licenses, authorities determined, were fraudulent.