The circle of lifeOne theme I want to make clear in this site is that nerds are cool.  There’s nothing wrong with learning about technology, the world, politics, and giving a darn.  Remember Bill Gates?  He made mod-nerd-ity cool.

 There’s another nerd who deserves mention.  She recycles, she buys scrap, and she has, by some accounts become the richest individual in China.

 Who?  The pirated DVD magnate?  Nope.  The chopstick maker?  No—grr—more on that later.  The one who makes all those zippers or elastic bands on clothing?  Nice try.

 It’s Zhang Yin.

 Ever wonder what happens to all that newspaper and cardboard you dutifully recycle?  Well, it ends up on a barge that leaves the USA and ends up in a Chinese port.  What could have ended up in your trash becomes reprocessed as cardboard packaging for Chinese products that . . . come back to the US on another barge . . . and hopefully you recycle that packaging and it goes back to China.  So we have the circle of life.

 Zhang Yin is the mastermind behind this.  After spending many years shuttling between China and Southern California, she founded Nine Dragons Paper Holdings, which is now China’s largest paper processing company.  Because of Zhang, America’s largest export to China by volume is paper.  And meanwhile, Zhang is filthy rich.

 Zhang gives us an important lesson—the wealthy often gain their money from getting involved in businesses that have zero “cool” factor and well, just are not very exotic.  This can apply to the “green” movement—some of our greatest sources of alternative energy, for example, could come from garbage in landfills, which creates methane gas.

 Talk about one person’s trash becoming another person’s treasure.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of Based in California, he specializes in social media consulting and strategic communications. A journalist and writer since 2009, his work has appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. Areas of interest include the <a Middle East, sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at You can also reach out via Twitter (Leon Kaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). Since 2013, he has spent much of his time in Abu Dhabi, UAE, working with Masdar, the emirate's renewable energy company. He lives in Fresno, California.