Curbside clothes recycling takes off

Source:China Daily
Updated:2017-08-30 10:27:25

  A novel approach to dealing with the rising tide of garbage in Shanghai has been well received

  Singaporean Koh Kok Yong might have graduated from Shanghai's Fudan University with a master's degree in international relations, but his career has little to do with meeting people from other nations.

  Rather, it specializes in recycling secondhand clothes in the city.

  After realizing that the city's daily garbage output was in excess of 20,000 metric tons, Koh set up Shanghai Xutao Greentech in 2014 to address the problem.

  "I wanted to do something not only for myself but also for Shanghai and its people as I'd decided to settle down here," explained Koh of his decision to set up the company.

  The Singaporean spent eight years on his undergraduate and graduate studies at Fudan and currently resides in the city with his wife and child.

  According to Koh, since its inception, the company has placed more than 3,000 green iron boxes in residential neighborhoods throughout the city.

  On average more than 300 tons of secondhand clothes are collected from the boxes every month. The amount of clothes the company receives has also been rising through the years.

  "There is obviously a peak season and an offseason in terms of the number of clothes we receive. April and November are usually the busiest periods for us as this is when people reorganize their wardrobes," he said.

  There are three outcomes for the discarded clothes: Those in good condition are disinfected and redistributed to impoverished areas in the country, others are sold to foreign countries, and some are sold to local plants that turn the garments into items such as carpets, vehicle interiors and covers for greenhouses.

  Koh said the government's policies to encourage entrepreneurship have been helpful to his business. The company has received 400,000 yuan ($59,000) in funding from the municipal and district science and technology commissions in the past two years.

  These funds have enabled the company to upgrade their boxes to electronic ones. When they donate clothes, users can earn reward points through an app, which can be exchanged for daily necessities.

  "In the future, I hope users can scan a QR code on our boxes and get reward points that can be exchanged for public transportation tickets or movie tickets. We'll carry out more collaborations with other businesses and relevant government departments to make such ideas a reality," he said.

  Koh added that the company has also been developing machines that can recycle plastic and glass bottles. Between 100 to 200 such devices will be placed in the city's residential areas next month to evaluate public response.

  The company is now aiming to reach out to more cities and is planning to introduce its boxes to Tianjin later this year.

  "We're cooperating with Tianjin Yishang Group, a State-owned enterprise, in this joint project. They appreciate our concept of recycling and environmental protection and we need their social resources to reach out to more neighborhoods," he said.

  According to Koh, the company has turned a profit in the past two years, and employee numbers have surpassed 100 recently. Other plans in the pipeline, said Koh, include creating the company's own plant to turn clothes into useful recycled products.