The society we live in is one that glorifies spending. Commercials urge consumers to buy goods that range from luxurious cars to the newest and greatest tool set. Overpriced trinkets, such as collectible figurines, are valued only based on emotional gratification, as they serve no other functional purpose. Still, consumers snatch up these products left and right. But how many consumers have taken a moment out of their busy shopping day to think about what materials make up their purchased goods and where the materials originated from? Economic goods consist of many different materials that can be traced around the world. Let us use a permanentmatch lighter as an example. A permanent match lighter costs about, on average, twenty to thirty United States dollars and is manufactured using many different materials. A short list of these materials include: brass (the outside case), steel (the inside case, hinge, and flint wheel), and cotton (the wick and area to soak up fuel).
Brass is an alloy made of copper and zinc. Copper is priced at slightly under three dollars per pound, and zinc is slightly under one dollar per pound. Copper can be mined in areas of the United
States like Montana, Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Nevada. The copper must be processed before it can be used for production, so it is taken to mills to be crushed and refined. The ore is put through processes such as sulfuric acid soaking and smelting. Zinc can be bought domestically in the U.S. or can be imported from many nations of the world, including Honduras, Peru, Chile, Mexico and Canada.
Zinc needs to go through a process similar to that of brass in order to be refined. These two metals are melted together at certain ratios for different products. The brass is then taken to the lighter factory and shaped to form the case around the outside of the lighter. Finally, brass eyelets are manufactured to hold the lighter together.
Steel is comprised of iron, carbon, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, nickel, chromium and small amounts of other materials. The most vital ingredient, iron, is added to the mix first. Once carbon is added to the mix, the iron transforms into the alloy known as steel. Variations in the composition pertaining to the other elements will define the grade of steel being produced. In the U.S., iron is mined in Michigan and Minnesota. It is extracted from the ground as a raw ore, which is a mix of ore proper and dirt called gangue. The iron can be separated from the rest of the ore by breaking up the ore and washing away the residing dirt and gravel. Machines then go through the process of forming the steel into first the inner case, then the hinge, and finally the flint wheel, which is usually done in that such order. Prices of iron ore have been on a steady decline, going down four and a half dollars per month for the last…