Hello, I'm your friendly talking trash can!

Wandering around Nanxiang Old Street, Zhang Linqi was startled when he threw an empty water bottle into a garbage bin which promptly played a tune and spoke to him.
Ti Gong

A girl throws her tissue into a talking trash can in Jiading.

Wandering around Nanxiang Old Street in Jiading District last week, Zhang Linqi was startled when he threw an empty water bottle into a garbage bin which promptly played a tune and spoke to him.

The intriguing wooden boxes automatically start “talking” when someone approaches.

“Hello, ladies and gentlemen. Please sort your garbage,” the voice says. “Wet garbage on the left, the dry garbage in the middle, recyclable trash on the right. Hazardous waste in the small box. Thank you.”

Speaking both Chinese and English, the garbage disposal unit is a project by Jiading to promote smart trash sorting. Five talking bins have been set up in Nanxiang.

Apart from reminding people to sort their garbage, the bin also sprays pleasant-smelling disinfectant every time the lid is opened. The top of the bin hides solar panels that provide the power for the unit.

“At first, I thought it was some kind of street decoration until I saw others throwing bottles in,” said Zhang.

The talking bins are just the first step in raising public awareness of garbage sorting. Already more than 90 residential communities in Nanxiang, are participating in garbage sorting and recycling.

Jiading is not alone in seeking creative ways of revving up public enthusiasm for sorting and recycling.

In Minhang District, Shishangfang shopping mall has been working on the perennial problem of restaurants mixing up wet and dry garbage.

Since last October, the mall has imposed punitive measures on those who don’t sort their garbage. For one thing, garbage trucks won’t collect the trash.

“We also canceled a parking discount for patrons of a hotpot restaurant that refused to sort its garbage,” said mall manager Jin Yanhua. “Many people stopped going to the restaurant when they couldn’t get free parking. That’s the price restaurants have to pay for ignoring the rules.”

Compared with last year, the quantity of wet garbage has increased by 30 percent and trash stations are now able to recycle refuse more efficiently.

A smart unit with six sorting bins for plastics, textiles, paper, metal, glass and hazardous waste like batteries and thermometers will go into operation in the Wanhang Gongyu residential complex in Jing’an District today.

The unit, designed by XHG Environmental Protection & Technology Co, comes with offers of cash rewards for people who put their refuse into the proper bins.

For example, residents can get a 0.80-yuan (12 US cents) reward via a cell phone app for each kilogram of plastic or metal they dump.

The system uses identity recognition, surveillance, big data, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

The units have been installed in Hongkou, Minhang, Putuo and Yangpu districts, and will be placed at schools and in office buildings.

Yinduyuan residential complex in Minhang, which has 4,000 households, has eight such machines. About 3,000 households are participating.

“We always sort our garbage at home before bringing it here,” said retiree Dai Weicheng. Her household has accumulated a lot of debris because of some interior decoration work.

“It’s encouraging to get a reward by sorting garbage correctly. Garbage sorting is not very difficult once you get into the habit.”

Dai and her husband brought a big bag filled with plastic and paper and earned more than 8 yuan for their effort.

The city released a three-year plan on garbage in April. It stipulates that residential communities in Changning, Chongming, Fengxian, Jing’an, Songjiang and Yangpu districts will have garbage-sorting projects by the end of this year.

Huangpu, Jiading, Jinshan, Minhang, Putuo and Xuhui districts will catch up next year.

By 2020, garbage will be sorted across the whole city.

About 3.8 million households have registered for a “green account.”

Participants accrue points for sorting their garbage correctly into appropriate bins.

The points can be redeemed for items such as milk, soap, toothpaste, phone cards and utility bill payments.

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