It is hardly a secret that division of labor and specialization are important keys to economic efficiency.
The Chinese restaurant industry must surely count as a world leader in this regard. These days the vast majority of restaurants, including the mom-and-pop 餐厅 where two people can expect to eat well for 50 RMB or less, outsource a substantial portion of their dishwashing to third party companies. Used plates, cups and spoons go into bins, which are then put outside and picked up by the outsourcing partner. Everything is washed, sanitized, repacked in plastic and the same quantity returned to the restaurant. While I don’t know the details, it seems probable that many of these third party partners are also effectively leasing the required items to the restaurants.
This is nothing special in China; in fact, this has been going on for years. However, I have yet to observe such an industry anywhere else. It seems to me that this approach would be viable in any urban area with a substantial concentration of restaurants in a relatively small area. Perhaps an opportunity for entrepreneurs in the rest of the world to learn from the Chinese model?