I know, you're probably well and truly sick of hearing about trash
You had to change an aspect of your life this week, and change is never easy. You’ve been berated and publicly shamed by your neighborhood ayi and made to feel like you’re absolutely and utterly useless — how can you get it wrong so many times?! And you probably still don’t understand why cleaned paper coffee cups aren’t considered recyclable. Don’t worry, me too.
It’s been nearly a week now since Shanghai implemented its first-ever domestic trash sorting regulation, requiring every household and business to separate waste into four categories.
For me, it’s been relatively smooth, but that’s probably down to being bin-deep in the whole thing since it was officially announced early this year at Shanghai’s Two Sessions.
Having said that, there are still some aspects that are a bit hard to deal with, like the trash dumping time limits most apartment complexes are self-enforcing. Also, it would be great if more trash depots had sinks and taps available for people to wash their hands after tipping out old, dripping food waste and grappling with brown banana skins and oily remnants.
I suspect more places will also install about double the current amount of wet and dry bins to stop the overflow of waste, or at least I hope so.
Businesses get it wrong, too
If you’re at your wit’s end and feeling like the world is against you after your first week of trying to sort your trash, you’re not alone. Even businesses, who you’d expect to get it right, were issued rectification notices after officials inspected the trash sorting performance of malls, restaurants, hotels and more. In fact, more than 600 such notices were issued on Monday alone.
It all began at Swissotel Grand, who were given the dubious honor of becoming the first to receive an official notice since the new regulation came into force. The luxury hotel, located in Jing’an District, was found doing several things wrong. Garbage bins at the hotel had none of the required signage, and napkins were found in the bin for recyclable trash.
In addition, the bins had no covers, also against the new regulations, officials found.
An entire shopping mall followed suit, when Crystal Galleria was found to also be without the required signage, and they mixed different types of trash together.
So next time the ayi standing down at your complex’s trash bins scolds you for getting it wrong again, remind her that it happens to the best of us.
Takeout food, minus waste
One of the new rules accompanying waste sorting that came into effect on Monday is that hotels and restaurants are no longer allowed to supply disposable items unless they’re specifically asked for.
That means your hotel room will no longer have a little bottle of shampoo and conditioner, a toothbrush and a comb, among other things, and takeout food won’t come packed with disposable chopsticks, spoons, toothpicks and tissues.
I didn’t get the chance to stay in a hotel this week, but I did test several waimai (food delivery) restaurants and was pleasantly surprised. Not a single meal this week contained the restricted items.
There’s gold at the end
One elderly — and obviously quite forgetful — resident of Putuo District has the new trash regulations to thank for the return of 18 pieces of gold jewelry he lost years ago. After eagerly separating some garbage and placing it into the correct bins, the man received a call from his apartment management.
No, it wasn’t the volunteer trash sorting ayi calling to tell him off! It turned out that, while sorting trash to make sure it was discarded properly, staff found 18 pieces of gold jewelry — including necklaces, pendants and rings — inside, together with invoices showing the man’s name.
Sure, there won’t be actual gold at the end of this trash rainbow for all of us, but a cleaner environment is just as good.
Overall, I feel like this week went quite well, and I’m happy to do my small part in making sure the environment can improve, even just a little bit, after 24 million people in Shanghai put in a bit of extra effort.