Journalist Minter takes readers on an unexpected adventure into the often-hidden, multibillion-dollar industry of reuse: thrift stores in the American Southwest to vintage shops in Tokyo, flea markets in Southeast Asia to used-goods enterprises in Ghana, and more.
With grace, a keen eye for detail, an interesting cast of characters who spend their life reselling used things, and the perennially curious mind of a great journalist, Minter takes readers from the backs of thrift stores all across the United States to small apartments and vintage shops in Tokyo, and from a truck in Mexico to an office in Mumbai, to show the inner workings of one of the world's largest markets. Along the way, he interviews many fascinating people who make a living buying, selling and throwing away what others discard, all while wondering what the future holds for this business in an era where consumers crave new things ... a gripping narrative. Minter is a superb storyteller who knows empathy is easier to connect with than numbers. In this book, there are plenty of both, but the people he interviews and the stories he tells are what make it an enthralling read. Also, Minter has a great understanding of how people work and how we have morphed into something new as the world around us has changed. And he also gets the way those changes affect how we act, what we consume, and even how we define ourselves ... Besides making financial and trade data palatable, one thing Minter does exceptionally well is jump from place to place to give readers a good idea at what the market for secondhand goods looks like on a global scale without bogging down the narrative with too many numbers ... Minter looks at the microcosm of individual houses and then at the macrocosm of the world effortlessly ... an entertaining, important and informative book that deals with something we are all part of.
... this fascinating account of what happens to that sweater you bag for Goodwill or the totaled car your insurance company writes off, is eye-opening—and even surprisingly hopeful ... His chapter on Japan is particularly eye-opening ... Minter is no poet. His prose is statistic-rich and straightforward. He’s at his best in the chapters discussing the ecological impact of waste in terms of product durability, and encouraging companies to be more transparent about planned obsolescence.
Armed with a passionate curiosity coupled with an investigative journalism background as a Bloomberg reporter, Minter interviews and observes dozens of buyers, sorters, cutters and shippers while tracking the journey of the approximately four million tons of used clothes exported around the world each year. Secondhand details an intricate and diverse network of operations spanning the United States, Canada, West Africa, India, Asia and many other points along the way. Minter provides an eye-opening look at the ways used clothes are sold and repurposed as furniture stuffing and rags, a high-demand product for the hospitality, automotive and healthcare fields, among others ... In an accessible and engaging style, Secondhand unravels the complexities of a vast yet mostly hidden and often secretive enterprise of used clothes and good...The result is an unparalleled look at the lifespan of everyday things and the unexpected ways our society's abundance of discarded items are, refreshingly, being repurposed for a second life.