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A Month of Trash Laws: What Have We Learned?

Jul 31, 2019 | 13:11 Wed
Shanghai’s trash sorting initiative came into action a month ago. Failure to sort your garbage into the four categories now comes with warnings by the 30,000 volunteer trash police guarding the bins, and sometimes fines of up to 200rmb. One expat has even been ordered to serve as a volunteer. After only 31 days, some interesting results have already become apparent. What have we learned?

Pork bones are dry waste. Chicken bones are wet. Clam shells are dry. Lobster shells are wet. King crab legs are dry. Hairy crabs are wet. Meat left on a bone — don’t even ask. Dog poop is to be taken home and flushed down the toilet, with the plastic pick-up bag cleaned out and recycled. There are now two hours in the morning and two hours at night to throw your trash away at many residential compounds. These guys will come to your house for 10rmb and sort and take out your trash for you.

On a broader scale, plastic production has boomed in Zhejiang province. Sales of plastic bags and bins have skyrocketed and has manufacturers struggling to cope. According to South China Morning Post, three million household rubbish bins were sold on Taobao in June – more than one per second. Between June 20 and June 30, reported a rise in Shanghai sales of rubbish bins and bags by 105 times and 67 times compared to the same period last year. A company called Xinding Plastics even had to stop making dog kennels because they were so busy. Heartbreaking.

People have also started to change their behavior when getting takeout. By July 4, reported a 149% increase in orders asking for no cutlery. Meituan saw a sharp increase of the same request. Half way through July, China Daily reported that the use of both plastic and paper straws has dropped significantly at Starbucks and Haidilao, and about a quarter of orders contained memos asking for “less soup”, “no skewers” and “only ten bubbles for bubble milk tea” in an attempt to reduce waste.

Speaking of bubble tea, the results of a recent online survey with 50,000 participants showed that more than half are considering stopping buying the drink because of the ‘complicated’ trash sorting procedure, which involves dumping any leftover liquid down the sink, putting bubbles in the food waste bin, and putting the cup in the recycling bin. Could this be the end of bubble tea in Shanghai?

The war against garbage has seen some interesting developments in the world of technology. WeChat have released a mini-program that can tell you what rubbish goes in which bin, while Alipay claims its mini-program added one million users in a single day and can categorize your rubbish by analyzing a photo you’ve taken. have added a trash pick-up to its list of valet services, and one gaming company called VitrellaCore have developed a VR game where you score points for recycling.

Despite the initial boom in plastic production, the overall feeling is that positive steps are being taken. In a recent Shine article, an official in Baoshan said that the amount of household garbage in one compound was down by half — a commendable effort. Jiayou people.


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