Turning trash into cash: China pushes recycling industry to boost green economy

"About 75 percent of the materials from these end-of-life vehicles can be recycled."

Li Yongzhong, 52, used to be a garage man. But now he is better at dismantling a car rather than repairing one.

Working at the Recycling Resources Circular Economy Processing Industrial Park of Lanzhou in northwest China's Gansu Province, Li's everyday job is to separate junk automobiles into different parts, from removing auto accumulators, extracting liquid waste to dismounting tires.

"It's like removing the internal organs and extracting the blood of the car," said Li, adding that those steps have to be done before the vehicle can be recycled.

Every day, over 10 scrapped vehicles are sent here. Workmates at Li's workshop are in charge of disassembling and sorting out metals, plastic and rubber from the vehicles for further processing. The vehicle frames are put into a huge crusher, which will turn the frames into steel balls in just several minutes and eventually sent to steel plants.

"About 75 percent of the materials from these end-of-life vehicles can be recycled," said Ding Guoliang, head of the workshop.

In the past, few companies and factories in inland cities like Lanzhou were qualified for vehicle recycling, while abandoned vehicles were treated as scrap steel, which sometimes caused pollution.

"Vehicle owners couldn't get paid well and auto recyclers only made meager profits," said Ding.

In 2019, a new regulation on vehicle recycling was issued by the Chinese government, intensifying a more environmentally friendly approach for vehicle-recycle enterprises.

"It raised the environmental protection standards for auto recycling and detailed the dismantling process, which is more environmentally friendly and conducive to promoting green development," Ding said.

Apart from auto recycling, the center also has various industrial lines covering fields of waste plastics, waste electronic products and waste rubber processing and recycling, as well as a wastewater sewage system to deal with wastewater in the park.

So far, more than 700 garbage recycling stations have been set up in and around Lanzhou and 150 trucks have been allocated to collect renewable items discharged by residents in local communities, including paper, plastic bottles and waste electrical appliances.

"Our industrial park recycles about 1.25 million tons of renewable items every year. Last year, we created a total output value of 2.25 billion yuan (about US$316 million)," said Dai Nanchang, head of the industrial park.

For years, China has been pushing hard to pursue a greener way of development, while improving the efficiency of resources recovery. Utilization and promoting the sorting of garbage are among the efforts.

"The renewable resources industry plays an important role in environmental protection and resources guarantees, as well as ecological civilization construction," said Pan Yonggang, vice president of the China Resource Recycling Association, adding a more comprehensive and effective renewable resources recycling system should be established to further exploit the potential of such resources. 

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