Beijing's scrap collectors swept up in latest crackdown on migrants

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China's scrap collectors
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China's scrap collectors
Scrap collector Huang delivers recyclables on a tricycle to a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Scrap collector Zhang delivers recyclables on a tricycle to a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Urban miner Cheng delivers recyclables on a tricycle to a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Scrap collector Mr Liu delivers recyclables on a tricycle to a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Scrap collector Liu delivers recyclables on a tricycle to a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Scrap collector delivers recyclables on a tricycle to a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Scrap collector Ma delivers recyclables on a tricycle to a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
Scrap collector Zhang delivers recyclables on a tricycle to a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
A man piles up styrofoam at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Liu stands in the section of a recycling yard where her family ran a wood collection point, which they cleared out after authorities closed access for deliveries to the facility, in Beijing, China, November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Men pile up styrofoam at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Scrap collector Li Xiangling drives his tricycle that is loaded with recyclables through an alley on the outskirts of Beijing, China, August 20, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A worker counts money at a recycling yard as he poses for a picture in Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Kittens are seen at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Yin Xueqiang, who runs a metal collection stall, and his co-worker unload a delivery at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 30, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Children use a tablet computer as a man breaks styrofoam at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A woman carries a child past a section of a recycling yard that was cleared after authorities closed access for deliveries to instigate the closing down of the facility at the edge of Beijing, China, November 22, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Pressed cardboard is stacked up at a recycling yard in Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A man walks past a discarded teddybear soft toy at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A waste collector arrives on his tricycle loaded with cardboard at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Liu (foreground) works at her family's wood collection point at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 29, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter
A view of various types of trash scattered on the ground at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A worker cuts metal at a scrap metal stall at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Pieces of textile are piled up at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Steel rods are piled up at a scrap metal recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A general view shows a recycling yard on the outskirts of Beijing, China, August 23, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A driver steers a lorry laden with bags of plastic bottles across a recycling yard at the outskirts of Beijing, China, August 19, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Scrap collector Li Xiangling (L) smokes a cigarette after loading his tricycle with recyclables from a shed in Beijing, China, August 20, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Scrap collector Li Xiangling empties a shed in Beijing, China, August 20, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Huan (R) and her son Peijun sit outside their hut as they talk with a neighbour at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A man repairs a three-wheeled vehicle (foreground) typically used by garbage collectors at a pop-up repair shop on a pavement in Beijing, China, November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
A worker watches an excavator load paper and cardboard onto a truck at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, August 19, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Huan (2nd R), who runs a collection stall for used textiles, receives a customer as his son Peijun sits in his hut at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Men load recyclables into a van at a pop-up collection point in a residential area in Beijing, China, November 3, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Huan feeds her son Peijun in her family's hut at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, October 20, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
Laundry hangs out to dry at a recycling yard at the edge of Beijing, China, September 21, 2016. REUTERS/Thomas Peter 
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BEIJING, Nov 24 (Reuters) - Working in the shadow of Beijing's looming skyscrapers, Yin Xueqiang weighs a pile of cardboard and old shoe racks in a dusty scrapyard, the latest casualty of a crackdown on migrant workers in China's capital.

Last week, security guards blocked the road Yin and fellow scrap collectors took to enter the yard. The authorities had posted signs this month giving the collectors ten days to leave.

"The city government is trying to get us migrant workers to leave Beijing, they say there are too many of us and not enough space," said Yin, who hails from China's central province of Henan.

As authorities try to rein in Beijing's growing population and capitalize on skyrocketing land prices, scrap collectors say they are being pushed out, despite playing a vital role in China's unique recycling ecosystem.

Unlike many Western cities, where local authorities run recycling programs, in Beijing, entrepreneurial migrant workers drive a significant part of the effort.

They cycle around the city collecting cardboard, plastic and other scrap before selling it on to rubbish traders, who then resell it to factories as scrap.

"Beijingers wouldn't be able to survive for even a day without us," Yin said, weighing piles of plastic on a rusty scale before handing a few dollars to a fellow collector, who pedaled away on a motorized tricycle.

"Who is going to collect all the rubbish? Who is going to recycle it all? Do you think Beijingers would be willing to do this kind of work?" Yin said.

Yin, whose efforts can bring in 3,000 to 5,000 yuan a month, has been in Beijing for more than 10 years. He moved to the scrap yard three years ago.

Few of his friends from Henan are left in Beijing, as it gets harder to make a living in the expensive city. Yin said he is considering going home or moving to a scrapyard further away from the city center.

A generation of young consumers has come of age in China lacking the recycling habits of parents and grandparents who suffered hardships before the economy began opening up in the late 1970s.

This absence of the impulse to recycle, along with astronomical economic growth, swift urbanization and surging consumption, led China to overtake the United States as the world's largest generator of waste in 2004, the World Bank says.

By 2025, China will produce around 1.4 million tons of waste every day, but as scrap collectors shift into other industries, whether voluntarily or after being compelled by the authorities, the country is burying or burning more waste.

"Over the past few years, I've taken Americans, Japanese, visitors from several developed countries to scrapyards in Beijing and their reaction is - 'This recycling system is excellent, why isn't more being done to preserve it?'" said Chen Liwen, who has studied China's scrap collectors.

Dong Dingxia, 50, who left her farm, accompanied by her husband, to collect wooden scrap in Beijing after her children departed for university, puzzled over the same question.

"I don't understand why we're being kicked out. It won't be good if rubbish starts piling up around the city," she said, while stripping foam from old wooden chairs.

"But I guess what I think doesn't matter." ($1=6.9155 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

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