China was once the dumping ground for half the world's rubbish. But with 1.4 billion citizens, they are now struggling to cope with their own.

With vast leaky landfills and hazardous backyard recycling centres. Beijing wants to modernise how it takes out the trash.

That means big changes for the army of scavengers who swarm through the streets of the nation's capital every morning. Piece by piece, they collect recyclable rubbish tossed aside by the city's 22 million residents.

There's enough for pickers like Wang Jindong to eke out a living and support his family. Wang lives in a shack without power or water with his wife and nephew Mengnan, 11. He took in the boy to stop him being sold by his ailing father.

"For his growth, his schooling, I would bear any hardship," says Wang. The bottles he collects earn him less than a cent apiece, but they will put food on the table and cover Mengnan's school fees.

But the nation's war on waste is edging pickers like Wang out.

Chinese consumers are being told to sort their own rubbish for recycling. Proposals are in place to restrict single-use packaging and the government wants big city incinerators to burn most household waste by 2020.

"We have vast numbers of rubbish pickers - they don't have any skills or education," says businesswoman Liu Xuesong. Liu has installed 5000 collection machines around Beijing, inviting consumers to bring in their bottles and get a little cash in return.

Middlemen like Wang are cut out.

101 East lifts the lid on China's rubbish crisis.

Source: Al Jazeera