What 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 year:
Adam Minter wrote this enlightening piece for The Atlantic: Link
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.