World’s Strangest

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Where Christmas Lights Go To Die

happened when you toss a hopelessly tangled string of Christmas tree lights
to the recycling bin?

Chances are, if it escapes being put in a landfill, it will end up in
Shijao, China, where 20 million pounds of Christmas lights go to die every

Shijiao, like most of China’s recycling zones, began to thrive
20 years ago in part because of its cheap labor and low environmental
standards. Even two years ago, visitors to the fields around town would
see clouds of black smoke churning off giant piles of burning wire (not
just Christmas tree wire), the fastest — though by no means the cleanest
— way to extract copper from plastic and rubber. But something interesting
happened on the road to globalization: China’s manufacturers, hungry
for cheap raw materials, developed an appetite for the recovered insulation
that wraps around insulated copper wire, and devised a way to make into
a range of products including, Li tells me, slipper soles.

Adam Minter wrote this enlightening piece for The Atlantic: Link

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December 28th, 2011

Stranger to the World


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