In Guangdong there’s a small town that specializes in recycling Christmas lights. They chip the lights into mm sized bits, and then use a modified sluicebox (a vibrating inclined water table) to separate the brass and copper from the glass, plastic and rubber by density. All of these bits are then re-used in other products. The entire process would be uneconomical in the US, because our labor is too expensive, and there’s no market here for plastic scrap.
A fantastic photographic journey through the reverse supply chain from Shanghai Scrap. This is how we close the material resource loop. Today, anyway. No doubt it can be made more efficient in the future if we design for this portion of the product lifecycle from the beginning. Apparently 40% of China’s copper production comes from recycling, and the shredded automobiles whose residues we use to cover our landfills? Their fist sized metal bits are sorted here. Wow.