Informal recycling

Informal recycling, Elosua Miguel

A bicycle loaded with polystyrene (styrofoam) boxes in Shanghai, March 2013. All around the city a legion of informal recyclers buy plastic, cardboard, etc. from particulars and businesses alike for recycling. Some have devised ingenious ways to carry as much recycling material as possible. However, in the case of polystyrene, the amount of money a recycler can get for it is not calculated based on volume but on weight, and polystyrene is very light (it is composed of 95% air). According to the information gathered, a recycler of polystyrene may get 5 mao (0.5 yuan) per 500 grams. Since it is voluminous, transport is not economical. Trucks usually compress the material, reducing its size before transporting it to the recycling plants. Those without such means have no choice but to carry as much as possible with the old bike. At any rate, the impact of informal recycling on the economy must be considerable. Citizens at the service of the State.


Miguel Elosua

Spanish qualified lawyer; PhD in Chinese Law. UrbaChina Research Officer. Has lived in China since 2006.

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