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.
Why are labels so attractive? One word shortcuts for frugal thinkers. Am I a freegan? What would that mean exactly? Who curates the definitions of our cultural -isms?
Reading through the Wikipedia article on Freeganism (which is as close to a cultural consensus on anything as I think we get these days), it seems like I’m close. Except that I’m not fundamentally opposed to eating meat (it’s the environmental degradation, antibiotics resistance, health detriments, and massive resource consumption involved in meat production that get to me… but a little free meat from the dumpster? Tasty!). I also have a soft spot for shiny new laptops and other information technologies, and I believe in the greed based toolkit of money, markets, and open competition as a way to foster innovation. But I also love composting, and creative re-use, and free non-materialist forms of entertainment and recreation like reading, and writing, and cooking from scratch, and I believe that unmitigated greed, and thus so-called laissez-faire (or perhaps in many cases more accurately crony) capitalism, left unchecked, are in the end destructive forces. Greed and self-interest are kind of like dynamite: the right amount in the right place is a wonderful tool. Too much, or even small amounts in bad places, and you’ve got a mess. So how do I respond to an e-mail like this: