Dirty work saves earth by recycling

By Han Qiao ( China Daily ) Updated: 2012-12-11 13:45:02

The country's first recycling stations were established shortly after New China's 1949 founding. Goods were scarce then.

The stations were owned and run by the State. But most shut down amid national economic reforms and urbanization.

Most garbage collectors and recyclers in cities today are migrant workers.

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About 98 percent of the capital's 120,000 registered recyclers come from three provinces - Henan, Anhui and Hebei - the Beijing Resource Recycling Association reports.

The actual figure is more like 200,000 if the unregistered are counted, says Beijing University of Technology researcher Cheng Huiqiang, who specializes in the economics of recycling.

Some recyclers take trash from the city's streets, while others go door-to-door.

Some, like Sun, run their own businesses.

China Resource Recycling Association vice-secretary-general Fu Hongjun says: "The recyclers are efficient. They work very hard transforming trash into treasure for themselves and the country."

Sun's family of nine depends entirely on recycling. His parents work for a water bottle dealer, who pays them to remove caps and labels from bottles before they are recycled. His brother-in-law works with him. Both have children.

Sun and his brother-in-law collect an average of 3,000 empty water bottles, a ton of waste paper, 100 kg of iron scrap and nearly 200 kg of plastic waste a day.

They each earn about150 yuan ($25) a day.

"We've made less money this year because the economy is gloomy," Sun says.

"But it's still better than returning to our hometown."

About 4.67 million tons of recyclable waste was collected from the 6.35 million tons of trash Beijing produced in 2010, municipal government figures show.

Cheng views recycling as saving. Recycling a ton of waste paper can save three cubic meters of timber. One ton of scrap metal can be processed into 0.8 tons of new metal.

Cheng says 3 million tons of empty water bottles are thrown away in China a year. If all these were recycled, 18 million tons of crude oil could be saved, he says.

"In that sense, there are invisible oil fields, forests and mines in the cities," Cheng says.

China Features

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