On today's episode, we ride through the streets of San Francisco with a long-time junkman, Jon Rolston.

Jon has spent the last two decades clearing out houses and offices of their junk. He's found all sorts of items: a life-time supply of toilet paper, gold rings, $20,000 in cash. Over the years, he's developed a keen eye for what has value and what might sell. He's become a kind of trash savant.

As we ride with Jon, he shows us the whole ecosystem of how our reusable trash gets dealt with — from metals (ferrous and non-ferrous) to tires to cardboard. And we see how our junk can sometimes get a second chance at life.

If you can understand the junk market like Jon, you can understand dozens of trends in our economy.

This episode was hosted by Erika Beras and James Sneed, and produced by James Sneed with help from Emma Peaslee. It was edited by Jess Jiang. Engineering by Josh Newell. It was fact-checked by Sierra Juarez. Alex Goldmark is Planet Money's executive producer.

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Music: SourceAudio - "Malian Gunslinger," "Country Twang," and "Dirty Bucket."

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