Companies profiting from introduction of waste separation regulations

By Xie Jun Source:Global Times Published: 2019/7/3 16:43:40

Dozens of rubbish bins are lined up in a storage room at a shopping mall in Shanghai. Photo: Yang Hui/GT

For a long time, most Chinese people have been accustomed to throwing away rubbish into bins at their will. This means that it may take some time for the process of "rubbish sorting" to fully embed itself into Chinese society, but some companies are already benefiting from such industry. 

On June 28, Jason Wang, the trade marketing manager of the UK-based household products seller Joseph Joseph, proudly introduced one of the brand's star products, a sortable rubbish bin, to a group of reporters at a supply-demand matchmaking meeting for exhibitors and buyers at the second China International Import Expo. 

The bin, which has special odor removing features, carries the high price of roughly 3000 yuan ($436). 

Despite the cost, price does not seem to be an issue for Chinese customers as the rubbish sorting trend sweeps across China

"We have sold out of this garbage sorting bin during this year's June 18 online shopping spree," Wang told reporters at the matchmaking meeting. Currently, the company is still replenishing stock for the bin. 

Wang had not expected such a demand. "The product has been sold in China for two years but never has it been so popular among Chinese customers. This rubbish bin's sales last month have surpassed its entire sales last year," he said. 

Chinese people's frenzy for sorting products arrives at the beginning of a new waste-sorting era for the country. 

On Monday, Shanghai began to enforce its first domestic waste management regulation, requiring people to sort their refuse into four categories: dry waste, wet waste (kitchen waste), recyclables and hazardous waste. 

Individuals who fail to do so may be fined up to 200 yuan ($29), while companies and institutions may face fines of up to 50,000 yuan.

In areas such as residential neighborhoods, tourism sites and office buildings in Shanghai, it is now common to find several different rubbish bins for people to dispose of various categories of waste. 

Other cities are expected to follow soon. According to a video released by the Beijing News on Tuesday, Beijing will also push the legitimization of waste sorting, but with different sorting standards compared with standards in Shanghai. 

Sales out of the blue 

As China enters this new waste sorting era, demands are also surfacing to rebuild the country's waste collection and treatment industrial chain. 

Waste products sellers such as Joseph Joseph are a small part of the industrial chain, but they are also among the first to feel the economic benefits brought about by such a trend, as demands are rising among Chinese families to buy products which they wouldn't have considered buying before. 

A Shanghai-based white collar worker surnamed Lu had recently bought a sortable rubbish bin on the Internet, which cost him 400 yuan. 

"I bought the rubbish bin in conjunction with the new policy of mandatory waste sorting in Shanghai. If I don't buy something which is specifically designed for waste sorting, it will be very hard for my family to change their habits," she told the Global Times on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity. 

The bin that she bought belongs to a Japanese brand called Katei Story. One salesperson of the brand told the Global Times that the bins had recently sold out, and the company had received a lot of pressing from Chinese customers to replenish the stock. 

"The new stock just arrived a few days ago," the salesperson said. 

A sales manager surnamed Liu at a plastic products manufacturer in Taizhou, which is a hub of rubbish bin production in China, said that his company had sold "hundreds of thousands" of sortable rubbish bins to Shanghai from around June 10 to Monday. This is three to five times more than sales in May. 

"I have anticipated such a surge in business with the publicity of the waste sorting campaign, but I didn't anticipate the surge would be so strong and abrupt," Liu told the Global Times on Tuesday. 

He also said that in Taizhou, many rubbish bin production plants are emerging. 

"To be frank, if mandatory rubbish sorting spreads to the whole of China, the current production power for rubbish bins surely can't keep up with the new regulation," he said.

The rising waste sorting trend has also created some new jobs, such as door-to-door waste collectors. 

They receive online orders from their customers and then retrieve certain waste from their houses.

A report from Beijing Youth Daily cited one such collector as saying that he earns more than 10,000 yuan each month by collecting rubbish door-to-door. 

Business opportunities 

Experts said that such reform would stimulate huge market opportunities, including but not restricted to product selling. 

Opportunities will emerge in the entire waste sorting and treatment industry chain from refuse collection, transportation to further classification and final treatment, said He Pinjing, a professor at Tongji University and an expert on solid waste management. 

According to He, waste sorting must evolve toward customization, and customization will bring about industry opportunities. 

"For example, currently, the bins for storing wet and dry waste are often the same in size and shape. This is not the way it should be as different waste has different quantity. If companies can sense such differences and design products that cater to the quantity and nature of different waste categories, they will have an edge on the market," He said. 

"For example, there can be rubbish bins designed to contain only one sort of recyclable waste, such as beverage bottles," he said. 

He pointed out that currently, the supporting industy chain in Shanghai for waste sorting is far from sufficient. 

"The biological treatment technologies for wet waste are not mature in China. Also, the current facilities for burning mixed waste should be updated to adapt to pure, dry waste which has less moisture content and releases much more heat in burning," he said. 

A report from the Economic Daily cited one industry insider as saying that a large-scale waste sorting industry will likely reach 200 billion yuan to 300 billion yuan in the next 10 years. 

Zhang Ying, an associate research fellow at the Institute for Urban and Environmental Studies under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said that the legitimization of waste sorting will have positive effects on relevant industries. 

"I believe the market, though still lagging behind now, will evolve quickly under such policy stimulation," she told the Global Times.
Newspaper headline: Rubbish sorting makes money

Posted in: COMPANIES

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