US Ikea workers complain about factory conditions

There’s some controversy over working conditions at an Ikea plant in Virginia.  Apparently wages start at $8/hr, with 12 days of paid vacation (8 of which are determined by the company).  Oh, and also you’ll often be informed Friday evening that you have no choice but to work over the weekend too.  And don’t even think about unionizing.  Sweet!  It’s just like we keep saying about all those workers in China that make our cheap plastic crap.  “At least they’ve got jobs.”  I sense that we’re going to have to re-learn all of the lessons about balancing the rights of labor and capital that we already learned so bloodily about 100 years ago.  Only now, maybe we get to learn it in the context of becoming an exploited low-wage nation in a global economy.  Ikea workers doing the same jobs in Sweden make $19/hr and get 5 weeks of paid vacation a year.  And they’re all unionized.

From the Motor Breakers to the Sample Room

A fantastic photographic journey through the reverse supply chain from Shanghai Scrap.  This is how we close the material resource loop.  Today, anyway.  No doubt it can be made more efficient in the future if we design for this portion of the product lifecycle from the beginning.  Apparently 40% of China’s copper production comes from recycling, and the shredded automobiles whose residues we use to cover our landfills?  Their fist sized metal bits are sorted here.  Wow.

This is what a closed-loop economy looks like today

A great series on the recycling industry in China from the writer of Shanghai Scrap.  We need to build a closed-loop material economy, and there are pieces of it around today.  This is one of them.  Mountains of fist-sized shards of shredded cars, sorted manually by women who are earning more than your average Chinese college grad.  Amazing photos.