Last year, bike sharing surged in China, with dozens of bike-share companies flooding city streets with millions of brightly colored rental e-bikes.
Abandoned e-bikes in Beijing, China (Photo courtesy European Bicycle Manufacturers Association)
Electric bicycles are a primary means of commuting in China because of their light weight, speed, and low maintenance costs.
But even so, the industry's rapid growth outpaced demand. Chinese cities, where infrastructure and regulations were not prepared for millions of shared bicycles, were overwhelmed.
Riders would park bikes anywhere, or just abandon them. So unwanted bicycles piled up as waste, blocking streets and alleys.
One of the first reactions in many Chinese cities has been to seize shared bikes that were vandalized or illegally parked. Cities impounded thousands of derelict bikes. Giant piles of impounded, abandoned, and broken bikes punctuate the street scenes of many big cities.
As some of the companies who jumped in too early folded, their surplus bicycles ended up collecting dust in vacant lots.
Cities have tried to regulate bicycle waste. Many including: Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou banned the addition of more shared bikes. Nearly 30 Chinese cities have passed regulations to guide bike-sharing production, operation and maintenance.
In the wake of multiple scandalous discoveries of piles of used Ofo and Lime rideshare bikes in China and the United States, the Basel Action Network (BAN) and its e-waste recycling program, e-Stewards®, are calling on all bicycle and scooter rideshare companies, and the city governments that license them, to establish responsible end-of-life policies.
The Seattle-based advocacy group says this will ensure maximal reuse and safe and responsible recycling for those bikes and scooters that cannot be reused in their original form.
"These bikes when scrapped are actually a form of electronic waste," said BAN Founder and Director Jim Puckett.
"On the one hand, even the non-motorized bikes contain hazardous lithium-ion batteries and toxic circuit boards. On the other hand, they can be refurbished for children or used for transport in developing countries."
"If that is not possible," PUckett said, "the parts such as GPS units, electric locks, motors, and wheels can be harvested. For both their value and their toxicity, these bikes should not just be treated as garbage or scrap metal."
Puckett said Monday that developing countries could be “hit by a tidal wave of electronic and plastic waste” if they don’t move to ban the import of such waste by ratifying an international agreement called the Basel Ban Amendment.
This change to the Basel Convention<www.basel.int/>, an existing treaty agreed by 194 countries, would make it illegal to export hazardous and electronic waste from developed countries, such as those in the European Union, to poorer states.
The Basel Action Network says most e-waste from North America and Europe is exported to Asia - to Hong Kong, and increasingly to Thailand and Pakistan.
Brunei, China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka have ratified the Basel Ban Amendment, but Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Laos, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam have not.
By Sunny Lewis
Environment News Service (ENS)
August 10, 2018