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Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  2,289 ratings  ·  455 reviews
Downsizing. Decluttering. A parent's death. Sooner or later, all of us are faced with things we no longer need or want. But when we drop our old clothes and other items off at a local donation center, where do they go? Sometimes across the country-or even halfway across the world-to people and places who find value in what we leave behind.

In Secondhand, journalist Adam Min
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published November 12th 2019 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Robin I'm working on a concept of "Urban Eco-Tourism". Most Eco Tourism being promoted is wilderness-based... but most tourists actually have a limited tole…moreI'm working on a concept of "Urban Eco-Tourism". Most Eco Tourism being promoted is wilderness-based... but most tourists actually have a limited tolerance for mosquitos and tranquility. Urban Eco Tourism, on the other hand, would turn "slum tourism" on its head. A hotel in Tamale, Ghana, may soon set an example. You can bring your broken phone or laptop and watch it be fixed by a Geek of Color. In addition to cleaning your room, your tips will pay underemployed Africans to collect plastic litter from the gutters and fields. You can go on urban field trips to watch repair and re-manufacturing jobs. You can visit with people who once worked at Agbogbloshie for several years, and returned to successful careers in the North. You can listen to live music, and dance. And of course, there's a day trip or overnight to Mole National Wildlife Refuge, a 2 hour drive to see one of the largest elephant herds in West Africa. Author Adam Minter visited the hotel while it was under construction - it's nearly finished. My recycling company recently shipped upgraded solar panels replaced in Vermont solar fields... a 50% efficient panel in Ghana will produce more kilowatt hours in Ghana than the 100% efficient panel will in Vermont. I had hoped to stay at the hotel while it was being installed... but travel lockdown, you know.(less)

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Apr 09, 2020 rated it liked it
This is an interesting investigation into what happens to our "stuff" when we're finished with it. It will (hopefully) make readers look at personal consumption in a whole new light. ...more
Feb 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
I guess my rating is based on most of the information was not new to me, and the first half of the book wasn't particularly interesting. Things picked up around page 133 when I learned about refurbishing clothing for resale. Overall, I guess I would say that it was more conversational than I was expecting. I wanted to get down to the facts.

However, I am truly glad that this book exists and will be eye opening to many people. We have become driven by the cost. We want to pay lowest price. However
Rachel Pollock
Oct 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book is engrossing and eye-opening. I had no idea how extensive the secondhand industry is on a global scale, and to what extent discarded/donated things get restored, refurbished, rebuilt, and resold the world over!

The author travels all over the globe, from the Goodwill distribution center in an Arizona town, to flea markets in Malaysia, to clothing recyclers in India, to computer/electronics rebuilders in Ghana. It's clear that the secondhand economy is sprawling, thriving, and importan
This was a fascinating look at how global the secondhand market is. I've been interested in "recycling" for the better part of a year now, after learning how it does and doesn't work now that China no longer takes the US's materials. But what happens to the things dropped off at places like Goodwill? Do they get purchased? Reused? Tossed? Minter goes into where those things go, for better or for worse.

I found some parts of this to be a little overlong, but I appreciated how global in scope the b
Jun 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Who knew there was such a thing as recycle themed journalism. Well, there is, Adam Mitner’s doing it. And this is his second book on the matter, titled appropriately enough Secondhand. Mitner was raised into a family of scrap dealers and spent years traveling the globe reporting on recycling industries and so on, which is to say the man is perfectly qualified to write this book about the second lives of all your crap. You know, all those things you’ve ever donated to a thrift shop and never thou ...more
Randal White
Secondhand, Travels In The New Global Garage Sale, is an in-depth look at what happens to your "stuff" when you dispose of it. Whether it be Goodwill, a "downsizing" service, or wherever.
The author travels all over, examining the industries that have popped up to utilize our "cast-offs:. The United States, Mexico, Canada, Japan, Africa, Southeast Asia, and on and on. Whether it be used clothing in Africa, rag processors in Ohio, child safety seats in Mexico (what a racket this has become, decla
Read this book. No, really, read this book! It's fascinating, informative, and inspiring. Minter really gets into the nitty gritty of reusing and recycling our old stuff, and I am now planning to go digging and see what more I can learn! ...more
Anne White
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Four stars for scope of research and good questions to think about. One less for irrelevant details about people's haircuts and what they ordered at the diner. ...more
Jun 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed this book and it’s caused me to rethink what I buy and what I donate to Good Will (I now vow to to donate more because others can better use things I am not using and otherwise letting clutter up my place). Adam Minter is a great storyteller and follows the secondhand industry around the world. I really appreciate that he calls out people in developed countries who don’t think about the secondhand businesses that flourish in the developing world. This book will be a big eye-open ...more
Maureen Grigsby
Jan 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This was a fascinating look at what happens to our clothes, furniture, cars, computers, etc, as we give them to Goodwill or some other organization to resell or recycle. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to downsize, or has the onerous task of clearing out the home of a friend or relative!
Dec 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The best part of the book is where he debunks the myth that car seats should not be reused. I have been telling all my parents friends this for years. It was a scare tactic created by the makers of car seats. Think about it... most car seats are made from the same grade of material that goes into the plastic in cars and the material that makes seat belts. Do you ever see a warning that car seat belts “expire”? Do you see a warning that says you have to replace them after a car accident? Exactly ...more
Holly Minion
Jan 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing

📖 — I heard about Secondhand through an interview with the author on NPR one evening. I thought it would be a fascinating look around the world at what happens to things after they are donated. But I was completely shocked to see my current city, Minneapolis, as well as my hometown of Newark, Ohio, featured in the book as well!

The author travels around the US, southeast Asia, India, and Africa as he traces items from Goodwill drop-off to re-sale to recycling to rag-making all around t
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
I love when a book can change your life. This one definitely did that.! I am a big thrifter and frequent customer at Goodwill and other secondhand stores. I had no idea how much work went into clearing out houses, sorting through donations, and what happens to those items after no one wants them. It made me more of aware of what I buy and what I donate. I am more conscience of what I will leave behind for my kids to sort through and I decided I don't want them to have to agonize over what to kee ...more
Feb 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
My wife and I donate regularly (very good at declutter) and shop frequently at thrift stores, so this sounded interesting and it was. I had no idea about the scale and nature of the evolving worldwide second hand "industry". This book, in a reasonable concise manner, covers everything from local Goodwills to the second hand repair and shops of Nigeria. I learned all kinds of useful information about the importance of quality goods and "repairability" (I would never buy an Apple phone after readi ...more
Nov 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
THIS IS MY FAVORITE AUTHOR. This is a wonderful book. It connects so many of my favorite things: decluttering, thrift, junk and recycling. VERY good bits provide a critique of Waste Colonialism, but in a readable, popular science style. This is not an academic text, but is deeply researched and expertly woven. Like a really good quality shirt.
Andrea Larson
Jan 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Was one of your New Year's resolutions this year about stuff? Buying less, decluttering, reorganizing? Do you wonder what happens to everything we donate or recycle? If you do, pick up this book. Secondhand takes us on a trip throughout the world to show where all that stuff goes. Believe it or not, that old t-shirt you donated might actually make a couple of transatlantic journeys!
Minter starts in a familiar place: the drop-off center at a Goodwill store in Arizona. Then through a series of fi
Ginger Hudock
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
If you have ever donated items to Goodwill or another thrift store and wondered what happened to them, then this book is for you. This is a well-done piece of journalism where the author follows items from thrift stores in the US to a number of final locations. Some items are bought by Mexicans from a Goodwill near the Arizona border and then are resold in Mexico. Other items, especially clothing, go to Canada where they are sorted by immigrants and the lightweight clothing is shipped to Africa ...more
Elizabeth Tai
Sep 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Disclaimer: Adam is a personal friend and I received a copy for an honest review.

I loved the book and couldn't put it down. It was fascinating to explore the entire "supply" chain of the secondhand market, and how seemingly good movements such as banning "plastic waste from the West" has a surprisingly long-term negative effect on the environment and on the economies of developing nations. Basically, don't take things at face value - there's more to the recycling, secondhand business than meets
Dale Dewitt
Sep 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I absolutely loved this book. My wife and I made the decision to minimize our stuff and it is fascinating to find out there is an entire market for secondhand stuff and also to realize there is just too much stuff being purchased for the secondhand market to even make a dent in removing these items from the trash stream. The people that Adam meets are wonderful in telling their stories! a great read!
Jan 18, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wake up Call...

This book reminds me that I need to get rid of my excess stuff! Having cleaned out parents houses, I know I don't want to burden my daughter with a of our stuff!
Patrick Book
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
A thought provoking read about what happens to all our "stuff" when we no longer want it. A dismayingly small percentage of stuff finds it's way to new homes -- and most of that goes to other, poorer countries with the rest going to landfills. Minter is a strong proponent of re-use and repair, and is appropriately critical of companies like Apple that work hard to make devices deliberately hard to repair, so that consumers will simply discard them and buy new. He has some admiring things to say ...more
J Wells
Apr 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating foray into a world I had no idea existed to the level it does. I will never look at rags or my donations the same way ever again. I am also tempted to never buy anything again (ha). I don't know who this should be required reading for but I will recommend it to whoever will take the time to listen to me. ...more
Nov 23, 2020 rated it liked it
A well-written and interesting, in-depth nonfiction book about the global trade in secondhand goods. Perhaps a hair over the boundary of "too much detail", it's a comprehensive study of Goodwill, reuse, recycling, rebuilding, how developed countries shuttle their castoffs to developing countries (and how very much developing countries benefit from and profit off it), and wealthy societies' tendencies towards hoarding (hoarding is "a spectrum", as one person in the book points out, and I realized ...more
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
This is the story of your stuff. Not the stuff you're using: the stuff you're not using, not anymore. What happens to it, if we don't throw it in the trash or the recycling bin? (Recycling was the topic of Minter's previous book.)

Westerners have a lot of stuff, and it has a life cycle beyond our homes. Minter travels from Goodwill in Tuscon to secondhand markets in Benin to cleanup experts in Tokyo to find out what we have and where it goes. The state of our stuff isn't pretty. Quality is declin
Jan 17, 2020 rated it liked it
This felt longer than it needed to be, and was really made more of short interviews that Minter tried to string together, only half successful. Yes, like most readers, it made me give a long thought to the amount of materials that I have accumulated, but it's not a pr-minimalist lifestyle book which was surprising.

I found the international travels interesting, though Minter writing "they spoke a language I didn't know" in the India shoddy mill sounded a little patronizing and gross when not twen
Dec 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
What happens to your stuff when you're done with it? Like many people, I donate used items to thrift stores on a regular basis. I've also spent a fair amount of time in the back rooms of various thrift stores, baling discarded clothing and sorting through donated books. So, I had a little background knowledge, but I learned a lot reading Minter's thorough exploration of the global secondhand trade. This is a fascinating look at the world of stuff, from used bookstores in Japan, to secondhand clo ...more
Jan 07, 2020 rated it liked it
While I enjoyed this book and felt like I learned a lot it had a deep libertarian feel and didn’t feel like it was objective reporting. I will definitely be trying to reduce and reuse more after reading this.
Nov 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: amazon-reviewed
Secondhand by Adam Minter is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in late October.

This book tells the outcome of donated items, the accumulation and redistribution of stuff, often with difficult resaleability; the concepts include downsizing for senior citizens, sorters and adult children serving as gatekeepers and processors, an object's ultimate end of incineration, the difficulty of assigning value, based on brand, age, and quality, import/export between countries that favor specific items, and
Dec 08, 2019 rated it liked it
Somewhat slapdash and jumbled, but engrossing and eye-opening. A quick read.
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Adam Minter is a columnist at Bloomberg Opinion where he writes about China, technology, and the environment. He is the author of Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade, a critically-acclaimed bestselling insider’s account of the hidden world of globalized recycling, and the forthcoming Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale.

Adam has covered the global recycling indu

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