By David Barboza Jan. 16, 2007
HONG KONG — Just five years ago, Zhang Yin and her husband were driving around the United States in a used Dodge minivan begging garbage dumps to give them their scrap paper. She and her husband, who was trained as a dentist, had formed a company in the 1990s to collect paper for recycling and ship it to China. It was a step up from life back in Hong Kong, where she had opened a paper trading company with $3,800 to cash in on China’s chronic paper shortages. “I remember what a man in the business told me back then,” Ms. Zhang said. “He said, ‘Wastepaper is like a forest. Paper recycles itself, generation after generation.’ ” Ms. Zhang took that memory all the way to the bank. As a result of her entrepreneurship, Zhang Yin (pronounced Jang Yeen) is now among the richest women anywhere in the world, including Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and eBay’s chief executive, Meg Whitman. Her personal wealth is estimated at $1.5 billion or more, with members of her family worth billions more.