Christmas Lights: From the Tree to Slippers

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christmas lights, lean six sigma, six sigma focus

What is to be done with old Christmas lights? Well, throw them away of course. They are minimally constructed of a material that is considered average. We look at Christmas lights and decorations as disposable goods. When they wear out, they aren’t worthy of repair, but simply just tossed out. We have a disposable economy and that waste simply goes into landfills. Did you know, those Christmas lights have another life … on your feet?

Recycling the Christmas Lights

Shijiao, China is the place where your discarded Christmas lights are taken in and recycled into a more useful purpose, as soles for slippers. Twenty years ago, a scrap metal processor in Shijiao takes on 20 million pound of the world’s Christmas lights and transforms them into soles for slippers. Getting from lights to slipper soles isn’t simple. It requires a bit of innovation and tinkering. Yong Chang’s system, for example, took a full year to perfect. The secret, in many ways, is simplicity. There are some companies in the US who do process the Christmas lights, but their end product is processed and eventually shipped to China for further processing and use.

The Green Business of Christmas

We are guilty of significant amounts of wasteful behavior. How many times have you thrown out lights because one bulb is broken on a strand? To put that in perspective, those lights are bought by the Chinese businesses in bales, which are the size of a love seat and weigh about 2200 pounds each! That is a mind boggling amount of lights that could have ended up in a landfill somewhere in the world. It is significant that these companies in China are making a difference with recycling. The challenge to the rest of the world is to find a better way!

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