Planet China

Chain reaction

Bike sharing schemes have been rolled out in many Chinese cities. They were welcomed by local policymakers in the hope that they would contribute to a greener environment. But as Southern Weekend reported last week, there is growing alarm in some cities that piles of discarded bicycles could turn out to be more hazardous than helpful in environmental terms.

Some of these so-called “bicycle dumps” – some with bikes piled 3 metres high – have been created because riders simply discard the bikes without returning them to designated collection points. Others are made up of broken or damaged equipment. According to the newspaper, up to 23 bike sharing firms made nearly 2 million bicycles available last year and the number could spike to 20 million this year. Most of them are cheap models of low quality. They wear down easily and bike sharing companies find it too costly to repair them. But many recycling firms don’t want them, owing to the type of metal used and the transportation cost.

More of the shared bikes are likely to prove an environmental issue in the next couple of years because they must be taken out of service after three years of usage, according to safety requirements set by the government. To put this into perspective, Southern Weekend says the industry is going to generate 30 million tonnes of waste metal over three years, or enough to build five Chinese aircraft carriers.

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