Accepted Paper:

The "waste road" of Beijing: understanding the urban solid waste management, between the regular and the informal system  

Author:

Marta Ferri (Lancaster University)

Paper short abstract:

Beijing is among the most populated and polluted areas in China, in which waste are becoming a huge issue. During my research, it appears that in the city waste management there is a complex intersection between the governmental system and an “informal” one, related to the shadow market of materials

Paper long abstract:

In Beijing, the informal system related to waste management seems to represent an efficient alternative to the governmental one, which demonstrates large difficulties. It is considered useful to the city well-being: without this, Beijing would be probably covered by waste, since the governmental system doesn't collect the majority of waste materials because it cannot  recycle them. 

Despite this, the informal system represents a strong rival for regular businesses working on waste treatment, since it can keep lower prices and thus get more clients among the recycling centers.  

In this situation, many regular waste platforms need to have governmental subsidies in order to keep the price of materials as low as the irregular market. According to Beijing environmental activists, this situation is due to the lack of a strong governmental legislation about waste trading. It seems that the strength of the shadow market is based on a kind of governmental approval. In fact, the informal spaces in which waste materials are separated and sold - the so called "waste transfer centers"- are dismantled only if working against the government's interests. 

This kind of complex intersection between these two systems seems to bring to the creation of new professions and even a sort of sub-cultural group composed by two figures: the "small dealers" and the "sellers". These are migrants from Henan Province living in the "waste transfer centers". This group is socially and economically (in an informal way) recognized as part of the complex socio-cultural context of Beijing.

Panel P148
Ethnographic explorations of formal–informal linkages in contemporary global economy and politics