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Sustainability Insights: Shanghai's Informal Waste Management

Over the last decade, China’s cities have rapidly expanded, with more than half of the Chinese population now calling urban areas home.

Shanghai in particular has experienced high economic and population growth with average yearly growth of 7.2 percent over the last five years. As a result of this boom, consumption and construction have exploded — and waste production along with them. And the rate of waste production has now reached a point where it is putting significant strain on government resources.

Enter informal collectors. They specialize in recycling and reuse — selling waste to recycling plants, factories and reprocessing centers and diverting it from landfill in the process. Yet despite providing an important service to the city, they are increasingly putting pressure on private facilities as the system formalizes and environmental regulations tighten.

Strategic advisory firm Collective Responsibility, in a new report, examines Shanghai as a model for future challenges that China’s second- and third-tier cities can expect to face, outlining current trends, key stakeholders, challenges and opportunities in waste management, with a focus on the informal sector.

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