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Retired teacher leads recycling movement

China Daily | Updated: 2016-01-26 08:08

Even though circumstances and a lack of facilities in China mean the time may not be right to recycle used batteries, it's always a good time for Shen Yunshi, and other environmental protectors to collect them.

Every three weeks, Shen, 88, gets on his electric tricycle and makes a tour of the more-than 100 collection boxes he has placed around several communities adjacent to his apartment.

In 2000, the retired teacher from Beijing Information Science & Technology University read a report about the potential pollution hazard posed by alkaline batteries and decided to collect as many as possible to prevent them from being dumped in landfills.

"Within two weeks, the five boxes I had put up in my community were filled with spent batteries, showing that people urgently needed collection facilities," he said.

Since then, Shen has expanded the scale of voluntary collection, making boxes from wood left over from community decoration projects. The number of boxes has risen from five to 104, scattered across five neighboring communities and campuses. As of August, he had collected more than 11 metric tons of spent batteries, according to the report from the university's website.

As the number of batteries rose, Shen became concerned about a solution to the mounting problem, so he asked colleagues to help him transport the batteries, first to a government-owned waste recycling center, and later to a private storage facility owned by Wang Zixin, a local entrepreneur.

In the early years of his endeavor, Shen rode a bicycle, but later, as the number of batteries rose and his strength waned, he began using an electric tricycle. "But as long as I can walk, I will keep collecting," he said.

Last year, a local newspaper named Shen as a community role model and praised his persistence in protecting the environment.

Shen is not the only battery collector, though, and enthusiastic individuals have sprung up across the country; young and old, male and female.

Wang wants to upgrade his facility so he can recycle the metals in the batteries, but so far that remains a dream. "But I will continue to collect them from people like Shen to ease the pressure caused by the rising number of discarded batteries," he said, adding that volunteers from schools and large companies have participated in reducing the pollution threat by collecting and transporting batteries to his premises.

To encourage greater public participation, he plans to establish fixed collection points in more than 1,000 communities in Beijing, and set up a program to allow residents to trade used batteries for coupons that will be redeemable in local stores.

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