Upcycle your life: 4 ways to reduce waste in Beijing

Keep it in use, and out of landfill

Image: Xu Xiaomeng via Live With Less
Have you finally come down from that Taobao-induced high that saw you accidentally buy 15 different saucepans, sweaters and sandals? Now that it’s the new year, perhaps you’re thinking of having a spring clean, moving apartments or have come to the realisation that all that holiday merry-making now means your clothes just don’t quite fit. Whatever the reason, if you have stuff you want to donate, we’ve found some solutions that don’t involve good things ending up in a landfill.

Recycling old clothes, toys, appliances, homewares and other ‘unwanted’ items is not only better for our environment, but also better for some other soul. Whether the items are sold to raise money or go straight to those who need them, donating the stuff you can’t take care of anymore helps others. And what better way to start the new year than by doing something good?
Direct to charity

Direct to charity

The first stop for most people considering doing something positive with their reusable things is to give straight to charity. The big name in the recycling world of Beijing is Roundabout. A social enterprise run by volunteers, Roundabout accepts donations of clothing, books, household goods and more, and either gives the items direct to people in need or sells them on to raise funds.

Roundabout uses the items or money raised to help support over 48 organisations around Beijing and China, helping orphans and other less fortunate people. There are collection bins around the city at many popular cafés and shops, or you can donate in store or arrange for pickup, if necessary. Head online to find all the stores that accept donations and what items Roundabout accepts.

As always, it’s important to consider what you’re giving away before dumping anything. Are the items in good repair, clean, and fully functional? If not, it’s highly recommended you get in touch with the charity first to see if something can be used, as most charities have guidelines for what they can and cannot accept. 

Recycling & swapping

Recycling & swapping

Live With Less (LWL) is a project that arranges swap meets to create a community around the idea of recycling and reusing household and everyday items. Scheduled to be held monthly in 2019, the LWL swapping events are free for anyone to attend.

Founded on the idea that recycling and reusing within our communities fosters a better world through conscious consumerism, LWL promotes a sustainable way of living that allows people to interact with those around them to extend the life of everyday items, as well as fostering relationships in lieu of ownership of things. The LWL swap meets therefore become a community affair, with the greater view of the lifecycles of goods and not just the here and now.

Any items not swapped on the day are then donated to Roundabout, Migrant Children’s Fund (MCF) and Tongxinhuhui. LWL is supported by MCF as they often provide volunteers as well as encouraging the migrant community in Beijing to attend events so they can reuse what they need. 

In 2019, LWL is scheduled to be hosted at the Beijing Farmer’s Market monthly, four times a year at the National Art Museum of China and two-to-three times a year at the founding location of Crossboundaries. For more information, see Crossboundaries’ WeChat account (ID: Crossboundaries). 

Image: Courtesy of Crossboundaries

Clothing auctions

Clothing auctions

Every two or three times a month, clothing auctions are held at peoples' homes around Beijing. These are a casual affair that involves participants bringing food and drink and, of course, clothes to give away. Head to an auction with any clothes that you no longer want or that no longer fit you and place them in the growing pile. For the first hour, try on the other clothes, chat to some new people, drink some wine and keep your eye on the pieces that you want. 

Clothing auctions start at 10RMB a piece, regardless of what the item is. As the bidding starts, up your price until you win the item and then all proceeds from the sales go to the host's charity of choice. Any remaining clothes are donated to Roundabout. 

Not only can you, therefore, recycle your unwanted clothes, but you can walk away with a revamped wardrobe and give to charity at the same time. Last year, Rebecca Archer (the organiser) tells us that they raised over 120,000RMB for charities all around Beijing, including Dew Drops, MCF, Blue Sky, Magic Hospital, Women on the Wall, and Magic Hospital, to name just a few. 

Sound like something you're interested in? Contact the organiser through WeChat (ID: becstarnz) and get added to a group. There's even a plus-size auction group for those of you ladies that don't quite understand how an XXXL on Taobao can fit on a child. 

Give to your mental health

Give to your mental health

Maybe you have some old items from that horrible, horrible ex of yours. Sure, they may belong to the evil one, but if they have yet to claim it, and you have some unresolved feelings going on, why not just… smash that sh*t? At 798’s ever-so-addictive playhouse Smash, you can bring in your own items to, you know, smash.

With all the end products recycled after smash-a-thons, your unwanted TVs, glassware, diamond-encrusted photo frames – you name it – can be pounded into smithereens by you and your support crew. Whether the items you want to smash are unwanted memories, or unusable old electronics, get in contact with the team at Smash and book your smash-o-therapy now; contact them on WeChat (ID: SMASHBeijing). 

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