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Junkyard Blight No More

Like oil-slicked seagulls and smokestacks spewing black fumes, piles of rusting cars were standard symbols of environmental blight in the 1960s and early ’70s. “Few of America’s eyesores are so unsightly as its millions of junked automobiles,” President Richard Nixon declared in a 1970 speech.
Although Americans had been dumping cars since the 1920s, replacing worn-out models with new wheels, the problem was a relatively late-breaking one. Up through the 1950s, junkyard workers would rip apart the cars and recycle their components. During World War II, U.S. Marshals even seized scrapped cars from a Maryland junkyard whose owner “had refused to sell the much-needed materials at established prices.”
By the ’60s, however, wages had risen, making it too expensive to pull old cars apart by hand, and steel mills were getting pickier about what they would accept. “The problem was copper: even a small amount—1 percent or so—when melted in a steel

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