The World Bank reported that China will generate twice as much waste as the US by 2030. The country produces around 150 tons of waste every year. It’s the air, the water, the streets; let’s acknowledge we have a problem. We can take part in dealing with it, separating waste at home as a start. The next step takes place at an industry level. Companies built around waste management are creating their own market, they have no competition. Amongst these pioneers, there’s Feibao.
Is recycling a profitable business? Is society prepared to take matters into their own hands? Are people taking it seriously?
Jonathan Cruysberghs, a half-Belgium, half-Spanish engineering professor at Shanghai University co-founded Feibao in 2016 and manages it in his spare time. He’s been living in Shanghai for more than ten years and knows the ups and downs of the massive metropolis.
The entrepreneur believes in a circular economy, one that doesn’t create waste, it reuses everything, recycles it all. His solution seems simple: to start an on-demand waste collection service. Households and businesses from all sectors, schools, restaurants, shops and others found in Feibao a way to dispose of their waste, responsibly.
Jonathan Cruysberhs believes in a circular economy, one that doesn’t create waste, it reuses everything, recycles it all.Jonathan Cruysberghs
The first step was educating the public, with unexpected humor, the company began to get their message across: - We’ll pick up your trash, but there are rules. - The startup will only pick up adequately sorted waste, and of certain kinds.
Paper with paper and plastic with plastic, a deep understanding of the different materials, and the importance of disposing of them separately was vital. Not everything is easily recyclable, glass or iron are too cheap to reuse, for example, and that’s merely one of many challenges met by the startup.
“The Chinese market is evolving so fast,” says Jonathan, “because [people] are curious.” Separating the recyclable and the non-recyclable is slowly becoming part of their everyday life.
Feibao acts like an intermediary. He makes use of the thousands of people that already collect trash to recycle, every morning in their bicycles, they’re part of Shanghai’s culture. Feibao connects collectors with its customers, and then ships waste to dedicated recycling companies.
The company has gained traction in Shanghai as it serves a dual purpose, it connects local collectors to a new income stream and becomes a reliable source of material for recycling companies.
“China is a huge recycling country, it has even imported other countries trash,” states Jonathan, and things are changing. China is now more selective about the type of waste it receives from overseas, and this will develop the countries own waste management market.
The F&B industry is really interested in responsibly disposing of the heavy amounts of waste they generate. Restaurants are conscious about the issue, many of them contact Feibao to pick up their trash, every day or every week, but restaurants have to categorize it.
“There’s one thing every business is concerned about: cost. So, our service is completely free,” details Jonathan, and the recipe for sustainable income is yet under development.
The future is bright. Laws are getting tighter, people are gaining awareness, recycling technologies are being improved, and entrepreneurs, like Jonathan, are leading the way to a cleaner, healthier China.
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Author: Franco Salzillo, Certified Somm & Wine Writer