Idle Fish is Alibaba’s marketplace for second-hand goods. Since the launch, it already recycled over 8,500 tons of unwanted clothes while raising awareness about recycling and repurposing among its 200 million users
The advent of low-cost has been great for many reasons. Furniture, electronics, and clothes, nothing is expected to resist a lifetime and people can keep up with fashion changing their smartphones or wardrobe according to the latest trends.
But there are also numerous downsides. Houses got full of unuseful objects, but above all, factories constantly produce products with significant impact on the environment. According to reports, China alone throws away almost 20 million tons of textile a year while the equivalent of one garbage truck of cloth is landfilled globally every second.
“We’ve seen a rapid rise in consumption, and accompanying that growth is a huge increase of idle goods that still have value,” said Taobao President Jiang Fan.
However, the Dragon is working hard on finding solutions to fight climate change and one of the country’s goal is to build an Ecological Civilization through education about recycling.
And here comes Idle Fish, the marketplace of Alibaba for second-hand goods, which aims to increase recycling and repurposing by rewarding users.
Since the launch, Idle Fish app already recycled over 8,500 tons of unwanted clothes, which means about 24 million pieces of textile. Today, Idle Fish represents China’s largest second-hand trading platform in terms of monthly active users with more than 200 million registered users, whose half belongs to the millennial generation.
© Sina Watch. A fish mascot recalls the idea of following the flow and circulate, which is a good image for used goods that get passed from person to person.
Called Xianyu 闲鱼 in Chinese, Idle Fish was originally launched by Vern Chen as Taobao marketplace’s feature in 2012 but got independent in 2014. Last January, the app also opened registration for a new premium channel that allows brands to operate their own official stores thus expanding the market beyond individuals to businesses in order to maximize the value of idle assets and refunded products.
It actually works like every other popular marketplace except the fact that the items sold are exclusively unwanted goods, to which customers can give a second life. Therefore, not only clothes, from designer bags to smartphones, through the app users can sell or buy every kind of objects.
Xianyu’s sellers can use their smartphones to run their stores, taking and uploading product photos, creating catchy item descriptions, and adding promotional voice recordings. On the other side, customers just need to tap on their device’s screen to buy the desired object as easily as they do on the Taobao marketplace.
In addition, Idle fish also partners with recycling firms to extend the lifespan of more than half of the recycled clothes by reselling them or using them to build industrial products.
Nevertheless, the app’s contribution to the environment’s health does not end here. Idle Fish also collaborates with Ant Financial – Alipay subsidiary – to reward recyclers with Ant Forest’s “green power” points.
Ant Forest is a game launched by Ant Financial on the Alipay app in 2016. It is a personal carbon footprint tracker that allows users to collect points through sustainable actions. Whenever the user engages in low-carbon activities, the reduced emissions would be counted and converted into virtual “green energy” that they can use to grow a virtual tree. Then, when the tree is fully grown, it would be converted into a real tree and planted in order to fight desertification in some Chinese areas.
Therefore, Idle Fish not only works more as a social network than as a regular shopping site but users can also feel they are doing something useful for the environment. It means that now even social commerce companies align with the Dragon’s mission to face the challenge of environmental deterioration by raising awareness among their own users.
© Pixabay. Horqin, Inner Mongolia. NGOs plant trees in Inner Mongolia and Gansu on Ant Forest’s behalf to battle desertification in these regions.
The sale of second-hand goods did not raise so much interest in China’s e-commerce sector until now. But as the country’s emerging middle class continues to expand the online used-goods market is developing quickly bringing up both opportunities and challenges.
According to a report from big data service provider QuestMobile, from just 1.58 million users in 2014, this kind of “re-commerce” market in China reached almost 40 million people in 2017 and it is expected to reach 67 million this year.
As a result of this second-hand boom in the Middle Kingdom, many websites started to focus on garage sales such as 58.com that sells used cars and Dangdang, whose core sales are second-hand books. However, Xianyu and Zhuan Zhuan – the platform incubated by 58.com – actually hold 90% of the “re-commerce” market share in China.
For many years now China has placed itself on the frontline in the fight against climate change promoting a sustainable way of development. And while many new technologies like artificial intelligence have already been put at the service of the waste recycling industry, it is now time for hi-tech players and singular people to embrace and promote sustainability.
“We believe that in the next three to five years, Idle Fish will become as popular as Taobao and reshape the lifestyles of China’s younger generation, similar to how Taobao has before,” said Taobao President Jiang Fan
Xi Jinping himself often addresses this issue in his speeches promoting a “green, low-carbon and circular development” while punishing the activities that damage the environment. In short, the Dragon’s goal is “to build an ecological civilization that will benefit generations to come,” as said by the President during the National Congress of the Communist Party in 2017.
With over 800 million netizens, internet together with all the related wireless technologies are the key drivers for further development of many sectors the Made in China 2025 plans to implement. Therefore, it is not only significant for the seek of the hi-tech supremacy but it is crucial for sustainable development as well.
Statistics show that China produces about 10 billion tons of solid waste every year. Therefore, it requires the participation of every Chinese citizen to win the battle against pollution and climate change.
So, while many Chinese cities have already developed facilities for sorting, collecting, transporting and treating trash and have also issued local regulations related to domestic trash classification, Chinese tech giants now target the population as it represents the real key driver of the recycling revolution.
© Unsplash. The trading online of second-hand goods has been booming in China recently, with companies like Dangdang that specialized in second-hand books, finding a lucrative niche.
The push on a conscious community able and willing to change its own footprint on the planet is what drives Idle Fish’s success. Here, users can join one of the over 450,000 like-minded communities called “fish ponds” based on location or common interests. So that the will to buy second-hand goods leaves space to the enthusiasm of getting connected with new friends.
Considering that around 90% of internet purchases are made by smartphones, especially via applications rather than traditional websites, Idle Fish’s potential to actually contribute to building a more sustainable society is, therefore, big.
Apps like Ant Forest and Idle Fish have taken a pioneering step towards promoting ordinary people to reduce carbon emissions at consumer-sides. They would make great contributions to the environment and public benefits in China and even the world.
Ant forest has already planted 55.52 million trees to date, reducing carbon emissions by 3.08 million tons and Idle Fish is catching up revealing that the total recycling activity on its site in the past year translated into about 230,000 trees planted.
Moreover, China’s import ban on plastic waste in 2018 forced everyone to re-think recycling, drastically changing how people consume. Consumers are now aware that recycling does not mean that waste would disappear. And it all reflects into the cultural shift from a disposable lifestyle to a sharing society composed by a flow of repurposed items.
Due to its fast development, the Celestial Empire is the country that suffered the most because of the environmental crisis. Beijing is thus aware that to become the worldwide leader it used to be, the building of a new sustainable future is the only possible scenario.
However, it is thanks to Chinese tech companies that a new awareness among the population is rising. And the impact on the environment, as well as on the Chinese economy, is expected to be extraordinary.