For anyone who might have missed it, last week Terry Gross interviewed Adam Minter, author of a new book called Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade. One thing that I like about Gross’ interviews is that they tend to explore not only whatever issue is at hand, but the subject’s own connection to that issue. In this case, Minter comes from a family that ran a junkyard. The interview is very informative about the global circulation of garbage for recycling, an economy that is largely opaque to most of us.
Shijiao, China is the Christmas tree light recycling capital of the world mentioned in the title of this post. It seems that the insulation for Christmas lights is transformed in Shijiao into soles for slippers. Gross’ surprise at this fact is perhaps relatable for all of us living in a culture of commodities that mask their own origins. Incidentally, a couple of years ago the Huffington Post put up a video of a Shijiao recycling plant narrated by Minter.