Spinning Garbage Into Gold

When Shira and Jarrod Morris recycle at home in Wayne, N.J., they know it's good for the environment.

"It goes to a special place where they make it over again and again," says Shira Morris.

But, as CBS News Correspondent Barry Petersen reports, they may not realize they're players in the $100 billion global trading game between the U.S. and China.

The trash first gets sent to the Zozzaro Brothers recycling company 20 miles away. There it gets packed and wrapped and then sold to China for 50 percent more than any American company will pay.

"It's helped us grow as a business, because it has given us a more varied end market to sell to," says Kevin Tinney with Zozzaro Brothers.

In fact, after Boeing jets and high-tech semiconductors, American trash for recycling is our third largest export to China: $1.2 billion this year and growing.

What the Morris family throws away in New Jersey ends up 8,000 miles away in the Chinese city of Linan, where they import paper from all over the United States.

What the Chinese like is the fact that Americans throw away such high quality paper, like newsprint from The Wall Street Journal, Kansas City Star and Sacramento Bee.

Chinese factories are turning America's old paper into new paper for China's newspapers.

Samuel Fang, of the Hangzhou Jianjiang Paper Co., says they receive about 80 to 90 percent of their paper from America.

It isn't just paper. At Norcal in California, they package up plastics and metal and old soda cans bound for a new country.

Ten-year-old Jarrod Morris has this whole global trade thing down to one sentence.

"Most of everything in the United States is made in China, and they need stuff to make the things we use," says Morris.

And he's right. American trash recycled in China is now coming back to America, in everything from plastic toys to particle board for building new homes.

So when you buy Chinese goods, a little bit of America may be coming back home.