In my book Toxic Capitalism I mention the vast recycling network in Beijing, some being officially sanctioned, some being done by rather mafia-like operations.
Radio France, after reading my book, invited me to explore together one of the major villages in the north of Beijing, well after the 4th ring road; the radio interview was done walking around and in the taxi on our way back. We went on a sunny Saturday afternoon, with Philippe of Radio France and Luca as our valuable guide and translator.
I was at first not that at ease as the people in those “garbage villages” do not like foreigners nosing around. We decided not to run around with cameras in hand, though Philippe shot some good pics with his mobile, I myself made one shot of the truck piled up with carton.
The village we visited is just immense and we walked around in just a part of it. Pretty impressive how the Chinese have built a small industry in recovering and recycling anything that comes to mind: plastics of all kids, styrofoam, water containers, fire extinguishers, office carpets, mattresses, aluminum, iron, steel, electronics, batteries, wood, paper, name it. All a bit messy and dusty and we were lucky it was not windy and not raining.
Thanks to Philippe for his pics. See the people dismantling the LED publicity panels, recovering plastics, metals, electronic circuits and all. I was also happy to see the recyclers are using a machine to mechanically remove the insulation from copper wires, and not burning them as it often happens.
Seems nothing gets “wasted”. We chatted with some of the workers who ended up being very friendly and we did not encounter any problem.
We were looking in particular to the batteries, a problem for the environment as the vast majority of batteries used in e-bikes and other equipment are still acid-lead type batteries. Some of the batteries still were filled with the liquid, others were dry, others were sealed.