Benefits of waste sorting are now plain to everyone

Wan Qianqian'
More than two months after the launch of Shanghai's waste sorting initiative, its effects are being felt in nearly all aspects of people's lives.
Wan Qianqian'

More than two months after the launch of Shanghai’s waste sorting initiative, its effects are being felt in nearly all aspects of people’s lives, ranging from how they eat, what they buy, to how they interact with each other.

At Shihua Jiayuan residential complex in Baoshan District, garbage sorting has nearly halved the total amount of household waste.

The neighborhood committee secretary has found that young people are ordering less food, and less frequently.

This observation is confirmed by food delivery platform Ele.me, which found that, within one week, more than 4,100 orders from local customers had memos relating to sorting considerations.

For example, 26 percent asked for “less soup.”

This could be understood in light of the new sorting regulation that any unfinished soup needs to be emptied, and the containers then placed in the appropriate bins. Others ask for “less rice,” less glutinous rice balls in Taiwanese milk tea, or no skewers for grilled food in their orders.

The trash sorting regulation has clearly changed people’s consumption habits, leading to less waste.

The regulation has also had an unexpected social benefit in enhancing interaction among residents.

With the waste sorting bins only open during set hours in the morning and evening, many residents will congregate at the point at these hours, greeting each other and sharing small talk.

Many communities have also acted to facilitate compliance. Sanitation workers are on hand at many depots to ensure compliance, with some communities providing water, soap, and towels to clean hands.

A resident at a Vanke complex in Qingpu District surnamed Wang said volunteers in his community would go out of their way to help residents deal with wet trash.

“Every time I go to the depot to throw out garbage, a volunteer will offer to take the bags and help to empty the plastic bag full of wet garbage for me,” Wang said.

Predictably, there is still room for improvement in trash sorting procedures.

For instance, some residents often miss the fixed disposal time because of their work schedules.

As a remedy, extra trash bins have been placed at fixed trash-sorting depots in some complexes. But unsorted trash has been spotted due to a lack of supervision. There have been proposals to extend the opening hours of trash depots.

In spite of all these problems, as sorting becomes more established, issues such as fixed disposal sites and time as well as waste reduction will cease to be much of a concern.

The author is a freelancer in Shanghai.

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