The Dark Side of China's Economy: The World's Wastebasket

07/05/2017 08:01 pm ET

By Hong Soon-do, Beijing correspondent, AsiaToday

China, whose economy is about to overtake U.S., is known as the world's largest importer of waste. The Chinese environmental authorities estimate that more than 5,000 tons of garbage imported every year. Perhaps this refers that although China looks like it has become a G2 power externally, it still has a long way to go for the qualitative growth of the economy.

According to the People's Daily and other reports on Wednesday, the reason why the country imports the most waste in the world is obviously because of the economic benefits. The market is growing because you can make a considerable income by selling reprocessed or repaired waste.

An e-waste site in a rural area near Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province. Women are collecting trash that can make money./ Source:
An e-waste site in a rural area near Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province. Women are collecting trash that can make money./ Source: search engine Baidu

Currently, most waste imports take place illegally in China. It's due to the law enacted in 2000 to regulate the importation of irrelevant e-waste. However, many smugglers are taking risks to import illegally. Moreover, there are more than 2,000 companies nationwide that recycle and make profits from such garbage.

In fact, the power of these trash is incredible. They become real money. In the case of e-waste, it's not difficult to earn income more than dozen times for e-waste if you repair it well. A typical example can be mobile phones. In fact, it is not hard to find dozens of usable products in a pile of garbage that costs only a few hundred yuan per kilogram. It goes the same for paper waste, plastic waste, and textile waste. The industry Insiders say that good trash can be treasure. You can see plainly from the fact that most specialized markets dealing with these garbage products are located in Shijiazhuang in Hebei Province, Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, Xiamen in Fujian Province, and Nanjing in Jiangsu. Mr. Zhou, who runs a used cell phone store in Beijing, said, "You shouldn't look down on garbage products. You can make more profit than dealing with new products."

Inconsiderate imports of waste bring many side effects, including environmental and safety issues. This is why the Chinese authorities crack down on illegal imports regularly. However, the problem is that there is a limit to the crackdown. The fact that the customers of recycled products are mostly poor people is also a concern for Chinese authorities.

+ This article was originally published on AsiaToday. (See original version)

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