In fact, Wen'an was the prefect location for the scrap-plastics trace: it was close, but not too close, to Beijing and Tianjin, two massive metropolises with lots of consumers and lots of factories in need of cheap raw materials. Even better, its traditional industry - farming - was disappearing as the region's once-plentiful streams and wells were run dry by the region's rampant, unregulated oil industry. So land was plentiful, and so were laborers desperate for a wage to replace the money lost when their fields died. As I hear these stories, I can't help but wonder: How much of the plastic that Wen'an recycles was made from the oil pumped from Wen'an's soil? Are all those old plastic bags blowing down Wen'an's streets ghosts of the fuel that used to run beneath them?