Prior to the industrial developments of the 20th Century, both China and the Middle East held little notoriety for the production of glass beads - basically because they had neither the means, nor the know-how to produce them on the scale for which they are renowned today.
A U.S documentary produced in November 2010, entitle 'Mardi Gras: Made in China' highlighted the environmental impact of bead production, with a focus on the huge factory in Fuzhou, China - the largest of it's kind in the country. This was just one of the examples used, to illustrate how China's industrial practices have led to the country being named one of the worst for CO2 emissions on the planet. While bead production by no means accounts for the entirety of CO2 emissions, it does contribute, simply because it is both cheaper and faster to produce beads on a 'mass-production' scale, to keep up with demand. To put things into perspective, the production of one tonne of glass beads, equates to over 1000 lbs of carbon dioxide emissions, due to the synthetic materials and chemicals used in the production process.
This is stark contrast to the former 'bead hub' of the world, Ghana. While the
African bead trade is nowhere near as valuable as that of China, Ghana still produces a hefty quantity of recycled glass beads each year to support it's own growing economy - yet all production is done by hand, using recycled elements from former glass waste, such as bottles, vases and containers. The process is entirely manual, from the grinding of the beads to a fine grain; to the firing process within a kiln, that does not emit toxic waste as even fuel is natural, and used sparingly.
African beads aren't all of the recycled glass variety. Although recycled powder-glass beads (such as the spectrum of varieties here at The Bead Chest) are by far the most widely produced, and sought after; there is an altogether different kind of recycling utilized for bead-making in Uganda. Here, the staple for recycled beads is paper - the more colorful the better. The paper used is generally sourced from the bigger cities where recycling initiatives have been purposely put in place for this slowly growing economy. Handmade paper beads were traditionally just that, rolled paper, covered in resin and hardened slowly by heating. Now, the concentration is upon the longevity of these beads, and the powder-glass bead-making method has been adopted, in order to give paper beads the durability of glass beads.
Economies with Africa tend to be of the agricultural or hand-crafted produce variety, eliminating the need for powerhouse factories of China's caliber. That being said, much of Africa is still riddled with poverty and unstable economy/ governments, which has had an effect upon general economic growth. As a result, Africa in it's entirety counts itself as one of the least fuel emittent continents on the planet.
Have you been bitten by the 'go-green' bug? Want to reduce your own carbon footprint, whilst still enjoying collecting and using beads for your craft? By shopping our fabulous array of Fancy Powderglass Krobo Beads, and other recycled variants, you too can support the 'eco-friendly' initiative, as well as one of Africa's growing economies. Best of all, you will benefit from the knowledge that every single bead has been handcrafted and finished, giving your creations the kind of character you can rarely find in modern fashion jewelry!