One man’s trash, the saying goes, is another man’s treasure. That’s certainly true in this series of photographs I made at the Schnitzer Steel recycling facility in Oakland, California. If you reside in the Bay Area and have discarded a can, abandoned an automobile, or dumped an old refrigerator, chances are these items and other recyclables, including metalwork from replacement projects on the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, ended up at Schnitzer.

One of the largest facilities of its kind, Schnitzer Steel takes in tons of consumer scrap each day. In the maw of a shear and a shredder, it’s crushed, compacted and baled. Most of it goes on ships bound for Asia where Western waste becomes Eastern steel. It’s heavy duty work done behind a high fence in a remote part of the Oakland waterfront. But the truth is, what happens at Schnitzer makes the world cleaner and greener.

As the first photographer permitted on the premises, I considered myself an urban explorer discovering an uncharted industrial landscape. I relished this unique opportunity to find gems in the junk, order in the chaos, and ultimately, singular beauty in the mass of consumption.

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