Christmas lights of a Chinese life

recycling christmas lights

Pretty in their twinkling allure during that time of the year of which yuletide is the identity, the magic of the Christmas lights has never been lost on anyone. So essential a marker of the festive season that the world greets in much glee, gleaming in a celebratory vibe of starry sights and merry musings, these twinklers of all shapes and sizes and colors emanates a glow that redefines indeed the spirit of the wee days of the year. The days might be a stretch through the fag end of yet another calendar in completion but the exuberance of the lights playing out amply in rows and strings and hangings of them upon just about every thing speaks of a promising new beginning indeed.

Merriment might be the feature of the Christmastime tradition in putting up these twinkles of beauty as being also avenues in adornment for an ushering in of a new year. But after this season of the festivities has passed and the world tries to adapt to its routine happening as a more mundane reality, it also is the twinkle of the utterly magical lights that dims and dies away till the time of its fond rekindling dawns once again in as much anticipation. What transpires in this pocket of time that they ‘endure’ might not be one of a gloriously glistening existence but one that is curious indeed though in not exactly global encounterings of this alternate identity.

It might come as quite a surprise that despite their obvious looking existence in an expanse of what categorically constructs the evil reputation in mass consumerism, of being fancy many routes to unsustainability, Christmas lights happen to be magical also in the prospect of their recyclement. And while quite a few local avenues might be available in this approach of what truly adheres to the spirit of celebrating, it still would be a very particular place on earth that emerges as the most ‘reputed’ realm in such thoughtful consideration for the planet. Even when this noble endeavor is one emergent upon a requirement rather than its occurring as a recognised responsibility, the achieving still of the end result in protecting the environment from the potential perils of a ‘premier’ accumulation in trash is what validates again this purpose in reprocessing.

The distinction in eking out this different identity for the otherwise twinkling expressiveness of Christmastime rests with a particular town in China. Contemporary Christmas decorations might be a very universal manifestation of charm but they still continue to be all the more indispensable year end elements particularly in the Western world. From that part of the world, it is quite a journey indeed that the lights are made to undertake to a region rooted in the opposite side of the globe- nevertheless one that is enriching indeed in all the value it manages to conserve as part of that greater pursuit in the classic ideal of making the best out of the waste.

So ‘adamant’ indeed is the Chinese town of Shijiao in ensuring that the lights having served their purpose of festive adornment in a distant land of appreciation takes on another lease of an alternate life that has led it to be recognised as the Christmas light recycling capital of the world. That, despite these lights being only one of the many items that Shijiao routinely recycles and its commanding still of such exclusive identity in a referential afterlife of the lights speak indeed of the prominence of this particular aspect of deconstruction. Most often the core materials of this make find reinterpretation as slipper soles but come yet another season of anticipating in very Christmassy terms of the Advent and they also are massively used to churn up ‘new’ strings of the very Christmas lights that they once had been.

Beginning thus the span of their life in China mostly and returning to rest thereupon as well, only to reemerge from that same mould in shipping and travelling during which they serve their purpose in much popularity, the phenomenon of the lights that sets the tone for celebrations to takeover first and foremost in the garb of the Christmas cheer is no less intriguing as the essentially religious, now secular festival itself. It however isn’t particular a regard in caring for the environment or in seeking to downplay its many appalling concerns that the Sinjiao part of the Chinese nation has for long harboured this intention in recycling. It instead would be needs rooted greatly in commercialism and the facade of the economics of demand and supply that this unlikely ubiquity of the Christmas light have come to be.

The famed ‘factory of the world’ that it is, it makes sense indeed for China to continually seek out such avenues of serving own interests that are as economical as possible. A constant need for raw materials for churning out a wide variety of products instead is what has led this currently richest developing country to scout out such alternative arena of working. That it addresses as well to quite some extent the concerns constantly marring the human relationship to the environment is of course an additional benefit afforded by this effort of a different realisation.

Ironically though, the identity of Shinjiao also plays out in an appalling assertion- of its environmental standards assuming a character in much lowliness. But that exactly is what helps maintain this long continuing process in trade indeed leanings. That, coupled up with the low labor costs has ensured that the entire Christmas lights of the world come to China for a makeover, through an intensive as well as extensive rounding through this domain of its ‘specialised’ reputation.

The approximately 20 million pounds of used Christmas lights that lands up in Shinjiao- or are specifically imported for that purpose in greater interest- go through a long but simple process in their separation into the components of their making. The tangled bundles of what possesses in that mess immense beauty, having served their period of tenure undergo of course that commonly strenuous effort in detangling before they are shredded into millimeter small bits and then washed off the insulation and the glass. The copper wire stays in its place due to the heaviness but it also is the ‘washed away’ stream of plastic and glass that finds employment in reusable capacities. So seemingly sustainable happens to be this process in particular that even the water is recirculated over and over again through the recycling system.

This assertion in sustainability though is one of a tweaked essence. The process in sustainability retains this character of desirability in such interpretation that attends largely to the Chinese interest. As a lesser exerting way in deriving its requirement of copper and plastic over the considerations in extracting them from the environment, this is a rather green exercise indeed. But consider the fact that most of these Chinese units built for recycling do not adhere to the global environmental standards and this whole business in unmangling a year’s worth of twinkles do not add up exactly to what one might expect to be accruing from it.

And yet, this manifestation in at least some measure of environmental accountability is more than crucial enough for a country known considerably in its image of the made in China identity. Feeding into this whole arrangement in mass production and availing as well of what occurs out of such large scale undertaking of business is this whole model of what has taken over the world in an assertion of globalisation indeed. And while the Asian nation is the prime benefiter from this way in existing, the rest of the world too does not have much reason to complain- and indeed no right to do so as well in their inconsiderate dumping up of the landfills. Consider the case of just the Christmastime characterisation and not just lights but a whopping 80%, or more than two thirds of all Christmas decorations come with the made in China tagline.

green Christmas
Source: The Guardian

For at least three decades till now, this has been a character in continuity of the Shinjiao narrative. And in much lauding of the Chinese initiative, even when its very motive is rooted in gainful necessity, the recycling process has come a long way indeed from being reliant on the harmful technique in plastic burning to being adhering also to the reusing principle in that same plasticised basis of it. Out of this manifolded measure is created therefore not just newer Christmas lights and rubber slipper soles but also other items like brass doorknobs, meaning that each of the constituent elements of the plastic and the copper and the brass and the glass finds newer modes of existence.

It also is the whole global dependence upon the made in China assertion that marks out in much convenience the ground upon which this maverick spinning of the afterlife conjures up an essence for its own. As the ships carrying Chinese products end up in the Western world and unload themselves, it only is more than conducive a proposition to return there with some sort of cargo rather than just by themselves. And with the prospect resting indeed in such avenue of bringing back discarded products or the extracts of them, that exactly is what the Chinese fleet have taken to doing for quite some time now. To the extent that it only upholds the nurturing goodness of what the essentially Godly invocation of Christmas celebrates and in no way dims the light of it is reason enough to sing perhaps paeans also of this not so Christmas frenzied nation.