Abstract

The automobile shredder originated in Texas scrapyards in the 1950s and became one of the most important tools of scrap recycling industries in the second half of the twentieth century. A technological response to the accumulation of disposed automobiles in postwar America, the shredder was lauded by engineers, environmental groups, and industry alike for efficiently reclaiming ferrous scrap metal for industry while simultaneously reducing visible blight from automobile graveyards. One unintended consequence of shredder use, however, was the creation of toxic Automobile Shredder Residue (ASR). This waste exposed operators to substantial legal and economic costs by the 1990s as regulations passed after the shredders’ invention made operators potentially responsible parties for ASR. The history of the shredder is a case study in the complex interactions of technology, environment, and the law, and illuminates present difficulties managing the wastes resulting from complex consumer products.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1097-3729
Print ISSN
0040-165X
Pages
pp. 523-547
Launched on MUSE
2011-08-06
Open Access
No
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