More than financial investment is needed: food waste recycling pilots in Shanghai, China

Wenfang Huang, Jie Wang, Xinying Dai, Mingran Li, Marie Harder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Household and municipal solid waste (MSW) are difficult problems worldwide, but nowhere more than in the rapidly growing cities and super-cities where over half of the world’s population now lives. An important mitigation is the diversion of reusable materials through sorting ‘at source’ in the household, and in countries where most meal preparations occur at home, this includes sorting out food waste. In this paper we examine results from an early pilot scheme for food waste recycling in 100 communities in the metropolis of Shanghai, China, that has had limited success and is ready for reflective changes. We consider different approaches in the literature designed to support sorting and reduction of MSW, such as law enforcement, top-down policies, community involvement and financial investment, and then explore which of these are present and missing in Shanghai. We find that there is considerable government support and willingness to make financial investment, but this is not as effective as it could be, apparently because of a traditional lack of rigorous use of data, of clarification of roles, and of supporting enforcement legislation. Even though financial investment is important and significant for the household waste sorting and reduction, it cannot produce results on its own. It should be targeted to appropriate stakeholders in the context of wider considerations to produce an overall environment for food waste recycling to become mainstream.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-116
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Cleaner Production
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2014

Bibliographical note

This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Cleaner Production. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Cleaner Production, 67, March 2014, DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.12.019


  • Municipal solid waste
  • Food waste
  • Recycling
  • Source separation
  • Financial investment
  • China


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