Chinese factory offers to shred wedding photos of divorced people

In China, we don’t mess around with marriage. Both at the beginning… and at the end. In the event of a breakup, it is possible to destroy the photos of your union! Shots that often cost a certain amount as wedding photos are a serious thing in the country. The sessions often take place in parks, historic streets or temples abroad and are meant to illustrate their supposedly unbreakable bonds.

But in a country where millions of divorces are finalized every year, many photos of these faded marital joys end up, at best, in the attic or the trash. Liu Wei’s company, specializing in demolition, offers an alternative: physically destroying these photographic memories.

“Through our activity, we discovered that the destruction of personal property was a bit of a niche that no one had spotted,” explains the 42-year-old business manager in his Langfang factory, located around 120 km from Beijing. Liu Wei’s warehouse receives an average of five to ten requests per day, from all over the country. Everything goes there: from large framed wall photos to small albums. Products which are most often made of plastic, acrylic and glass.

Bomb, mass, crusher…

In the warehouse, using black spray paint, employees mask customers’ faces in order to preserve their privacy. Then smash the glass using a sledgehammer. “These are all people trying to move on,” says Liu Wei.

The photos provide a glimpse of these families, now broken, in happier times. In one of them, a woman in a white wedding dress is lying on a bed of flowers, while another shows a loving couple gazing tenderly into each other’s eyes. There, lovebirds are dressed in matching football jerseys, ball in hand, while next to it lies the image of a man in love with his pregnant wife, on whose stomach he tenderly places his face.

Since its launch a year ago, around 1,100 customers have already requested this destruction service, says Liu Wei. Most are under the age of 45 and around two-thirds are women.

Customers who often wish to remain discreet. Their motivations for parting with wedding photos are often complex. “Few do it maliciously,” says Liu Wei. “It is above all because this object arouses certain negative thoughts or feelings in them or “that it constitutes an obstacle” to overcoming their grief, he emphasizes.

They come to attend

Some people travel in person to witness the destruction of the photos, as a sort of closure to a chapter of their lives.

Given the irreversible nature of the process, Liu Wei contacts his clients shortly before destruction, to give them one last chance to recover their items in case they regret their decision. After getting their green light, he films with his smartphone his colleagues who gently push the photos into the large grinding teeth of the immense shredder. The debris is then transported to a factory, where it is processed with other household waste to produce electricity.

The divorce rate exploded in China after the relaxation of marriage laws in 2003. It has fallen somewhat since the authorities introduced in 2021 a mandatory and controversial “cooling off period” of one month after any request for divorce.

China recorded 2.9 million divorces in 2022, compared to 4.3 million in 2020. The number of marriages increased last year for the first time in almost ten years.

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