Chinese recycling takes off

August 2019—It’s ironic that China is building robust recycling systems for their own population while closing their markets for international materials, destabilizing recycling in the US. But in the long run, this is a good move. As China’s middle class grows, so does its consumption of products and packaging. President Xi sees recycling as one core piece to their Green Society.

"Trash classification is related to the people’s living environment and the economical use of resources. It is also an important embodiment of the level of civic-mindedness," Xi said. "Extensive education and guidance should be carried out to make the people realize the importance and necessity of garbage sorting." 

Can you imagine a US President, any of them except perhaps Jimmy Carter, putting this much attention on recycling?

The official goal for residences is to recycle 35 percent by 2020, roughly equivalent to the US, so they are testing different approaches in different cities. They’re providing training, signage and some penalties. This is also driving innovations.

The private sector is paying attention: More startups are emerging to solve the waste management problem in China, with some managing to raise money from mainstream VCs such as Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent. Robots for sortation, such as AMP Robotics, or mobile apps for smart recycling stations or second-hand mobile phones are just some examples of the innovations applicable in the field.