An estimated 20 million shared bikes put on the streets in China in 2017 may lead to the accumulation of about 300,000 tons of waste metal, raising concerns over the disposal of broken and discarded shared bikes in cities.
The waste metal from the bikes is "equal to the total weight of steel used in five aircraft carriers," the Southern Weekly newspaper reported.
The huge amount of shared bikes and their short life span raised the question of how to recycle the resulting waste metal, and some leading bike-sharing companies have already taken steps in bike recycling, according to the report.
Mobike reportedly signed a contract with a resource recycling company in May in a bid to fully utilize the bikes, while its rival OFO also started a program on recycling of spare bikes, which is not limited to its yellow bikes but open to all types of shared bikes.
According to a regulation on shared bikes formulated by the Shanghai Cycling Association, the life span of a shared bike should not exceed three years, the Xinhua News Agency reported in April. Southern Weekly reported that Beijing and Hangzhou have limited the use of a shared bike to three years.
"One size doesn't fit all. From the perspective of usage, it is understandable. However, if a shared bike still works well after three years, then it might be a big waste to throw it away," Zhu Xiao, a professor at the Renmin University of China, told the Global Times.
"More detailed regulations and rules should be formulated on the management and recycling of these shared bikes. For example, if 80 percent of shared bikes need to be removed from streets, then the same amount of shared bikes should be allowed on the streets, in order to balance the total number of the shared bikes," Zhu added.
Photos circulating on Chinese social media show numerous discarded bikes piled up in the suburbs of Beijing. Some do not look completely broken but are still taken out of use.