Sorting out a problem: A co-production approach to household waste management in Shanghai, China.


Department of Social Sciences, Michigan Technological University, 1400 Townsend Drive, Houghton, MI 49931, USA; Shanghai Academy of Landscape Architecture Science and Planning, 899 Longwu Road, Shanghai 200232, China. Electronic address: [Email]


Rapid urban population growth in China has resulted in significant challenges for Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) management. To combat these challenges, Chinese authorities implemented a pilot program of MSW sorting in eight Chinese cities including Shanghai in 2000 but is yet to reach a widespread success. This paper uses a qualitative case-study approach to explore the potential of a community-based co-production strategy for household waste sorting as an alternative to the conventional top-down approach. Co-production implies the involvement of citizens, consumers, volunteers and/or community organizations in producing public service. We find two major drivers of the government-volunteer consortium and the peer-pressure effect help realize the potential of waste-management co-production at a lowered cost with improved efficiency and collaborative innovation. In addition, context-specific conditions including policy consistency, strong volunteer effort and compatibility with local culture to promote public participation must be present for further co-production application. We also acknowledge that the co-production approach would be most effective at the initial stage of policy implementation to foster the waste-sorting habit-formation in regions where the waste collection rates remain low.


China,Co-production,Government-volunteer consortium,Household waste sorting,Peer-pressure effect,Shanghai,