China has a massive garbage problem. Now one former central banker is hoping to find a treasure where others see trash.
The world's second-largest economy currently produces around 250 million tonnes of waste every year. The World Bank projects that this figure will double by 2025 as population surges in metropolitan areas and cities that are disproportionately responsible in generating waste.
Yet for Chen Xiaoping, the CEO of China Everbright International, one of the largest in China's waste management industry, the country's problem with trash means that its market potential is tremendous.
"I studied finance and used to deal with currencies. Now I'm in environmental protection and have to deal with garbage," Chen tells CNBC's Managing Asia, "[But] since I've entered the business, I've fallen in love with it."
When Chen first joined the company, operations at Everbright International had been unsustainable. Chen had considered new opportunities for the company in the real estate, mining or infrastructure sectors but decided against them because of the huge capital outlay.
Eventually, Everbright International ventured into waste management because it required relatively less capital.
"We actually entered the environmental protection industry largely by chance," Chen says.
The gamble appears to have paid off and Everbright International's global footprint has since grown significantly. The company acquired the Polish waste management firm Novago for 123 million euros ($139 million) in June this year. Meanwhile, the company's water business was listed in Singapore in 2014 and it intends to spin-off its green technology business for a Hong Kong listing in the future.