Sorting our trash doesn't sort out our trash problem

Hu Min
Eight food (wet) waste facilities and seven incineration works for other garbage will be built or expanded next year, the city's greenery authorities said Monday.
Hu Min

Everyone is talking trash these days, but what is called for is less trash talk and more trash action.

To that desirable end, eight food (wet) waste facilities and seven incineration works for other garbage will be built or expanded next year, the city’s greenery authorities said Monday.

A three-year action plan on garbage classification in April earmarked about 20 billion yuan (US$2.9 billion)for sorting out the garbage problem before 2020. The majority will be spent on treatment facilities.

Residential communities in Changning, Chongming, Fengxian, Jing’an, Songjiang and Yangpu districts should have their garbage sorting in order by the end of this month. Huangpu, Jiading, Jinshan, Minhang, Putuo and Xuhui have another year to cleanup their acts.

The target for garbage sorting in the city was 40 percent this year, but the real rate is lagging far behind, said Xu Zhiping, director of environmental sanitation at the bureau, yesterday.

The actual rate is a slippery number, combining separating facilities, informing residents of garbage sorting and the real effect of waste classification.

“It’s easy to construct hardware — designated bins in communities — but it takes time to cultivate software, namely the habit of garbage sorting,” said Xu. “Overall, suburban districts are doing better than downtown districts. Chongming District is in the lead, followed by Jing’an, Changning and Songjiang.”

Nearly 50 sub-districts have applied for the title of model garbage sorters, according to the bureau.

Close to 5,000 tons of wet trash were being sorted each day by the end of the third quarter, but city’s recycling capacity for wet waste is just over 3,000 tons per day, exposing a clear gap between capacity and production, said Xu.

“To tackle the gap, we are working out subsidies for recycling wet trash at district level and are building new facilities,” said Xu.

The target of a recycling capacity of 7,000 tons of wet trash daily by 2020 is still a long way off. Most dry garbage is incinerated, about 13,300 tons daily. The target of over 28,000 tons daily by 2021 is also quite far in the distance. A new landfill site with a capacity of 5,000 tons daily is on the agenda.

A draft of garbage sorting regulations has been reviewed twice by the People’s Congress. A third review is scheduled for this month with a vote in late January.

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