No more trash talk as expats contribute to trash-sorting campaign success

Hu Min
Shanghai has made great progress in its trash-sorting campaign since garbage classification regulations went into effect on July 1, 2019, with waste-separation now a way of life.
Hu Min

Shot by Ma Xuefeng, Arina Yakupova. Edited by Ma Xuefeng. Subtitles by Wang Xinzhou.

Shanghai has made remarkable progress in its trash-sorting campaign since its garbage classification regulations went into effect on July 1, 2019, with waste-separation becoming a way of life for both local residents and expats.

At Gubei International Garden in downtown Changning District, Michelle Wang, a Filipino expat who has been living in Shanghai for 23 years, 15 of them in the community, meticulously put different types of trash into corresponding bins one by one on Monday afternoon.

"I had the habit of doing it on my own before the garbage classification regulations went into effect, and I have the awareness to separate my own garbage," she told Shanghai Daily.

More than that, she also got involved in promoting awareness about trash classification among local expat groups.

"I think it is a very good project, and I was there to support it," she said. "I helped in the discussions and the promotional activities. Overall, I think it is good because it is very environmental friendly."

No more trash talk as expats contribute to trash-sorting campaign success
Dong Jun / SHINE

Michelle Wang (right), an expat from the Philippines, listens to a neighborhood committee official in front of her community's bulletin board.

Wang has perceived tangible changes under the campaign.

"I think people are very much conscious today, and are more disciplined about hygiene. It starts from small habits and it starts at home, which is a good discipline," she noted.

"Shanghai is very clean, and all this starts from home."

Wang is an epitome of expats' active participation in Shanghai's garbage classification efforts.

The Gubei complex is home to 1,200 residents, about 40 percent of them expats.

Promotion materials and garbage classification manuals were translated into Japanese, Korean, and English to cater to their needs, along with multi-lingual signs for disposal guidance.

The community has also upgraded temporary disposal spots, adding lights and hand-washing facilities.

"Foreign residents played an active role in our volunteer work as they spared no effort in promoting trash classification and the disposal mode to other expat neighbors," Xu Lan, a neighborhood committee official, explained.

No more trash talk as expats contribute to trash-sorting campaign success
Dong Jun / SHINE

Trash disposal bins at Gubei International Garden in Shanghai's downtown Changning District.

Sun Bingchao, a community garbage sorting volunteer, has witnessed the improvement in residents' trash-sorting habit over the past four years. His duty is checking whether trash is disposed of in the right bins.

"The accuracy rate of trash classification among residents of the complex has now hit over 90 percent, and they are very active and willing in waste sorting as they already separate the trash at home before disposal," Sun told Shanghai Daily.

At the beginning, he said he found recyclable waste was often mixed with dry trash, which, four years later, has been stamped out.

"Through education and communication over the past years, trash sorting has become a habit among residents, and expats are also doing an excellent job," Sun observed.

The residential complex will soon introduce an intelligent garbage collection machine to collect and recycle paper, plastic, textile, metal and glass waste.

It can automatically weigh trash and exchange cash for residents as reward based on weight.

When the trash amount approaches the spillover level, the machine will send an automatic alarm for clearing and transportation.

The Shanghai Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau said that over 95 percent of residential complexes in the city now meet trash-sorting standards.

The city sorted 8,843 tons of wet trash daily in the first five months of this year, up from 6,950 tons in June 2019, before the law took effect, according to latest figures revealed by the bureau.

Between January and May, 16,915 tons of dry trash were collected daily, down from 19,370 tons in June 2019.

In the past five months, 7,391 tons of recyclable waste and 1.76 tons of hazardous waste were sorted daily, up from 4,000 tons and 265 kilograms in June 2019, respectively.

Since 2019, trash disposal spots at 21,000 residential complexes have been upgraded and renovated, and more than 1,000 garbage containers collecting recyclable trash have been installed at 233 business circles, transport hubs, parks and tourist attractions.

As of the end of May, the city had 27,600 trash sorting volunteer programs aided by 713,800 volunteers.

Bureau officials said the city will continuously upgrade disposal spots at residential complexes with hand-washing, rain shelter, and lighting facilities and aggressively address complaints like odor and trash bin spillover at non-designated disposal times.

No more trash talk as expats contribute to trash-sorting campaign success
Dong Jun / SHINE

Michelle Wang disposes waste.

After four years, Shanghai's garbage classification policies are enabling a smart, low-carbon lifestyle.

On Tianshan Road, also in Changning District, artificial intelligence and big data algorithm technologies monitor trash disposal irregularities in real-time and automatically alert property management staff and authorities.

Surveillance cameras and a 24-hour warning system have been installed in a wet market, where random disposal acts were once common.

The system sends law enforcement personnel photos, times, and locations of people dumping waste in non-designated areas.

"The Tianshan Road subdistrict has 53 residential complexes, and we have installed AI surveillance cameras covering garbage disposal spots in all of them," said Wu Guangyu, head of the urban operation center.

"The system will alert staff such as property management companies and neighborhood committees, and authorities will handle the incidents once they are identified, significantly improving efficiency and accuracy."

The system is also used for trash collection and transportation.

Meanwhile, three old trash disposal sites in the Lingxin residential complex on Guangzhong Road in Hongkou District were rebuilt into smart venues.

"Eco-friendly materials were used, and they now boast non-contact disposal, automatic spray, deodorization, and ultraviolet sterilization facilities," Guo Nan, deputy director of the Guangzhong Road subdistrict office, revealed.

"Volunteers are alerted when the bin is close to spilling waste."

Elsewhere, to encourage residents to sort their waste, the Lingyun subdistrict in Xuhui District has set up a carbon sink scientific popularization pavilion.

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