News ID: 255660
Published: 0941 GMT July 12, 2019

Shanghai grapples with strict new recycling laws

Shanghai grapples with strict new recycling laws

For the last two weeks, Shanghai residents have grappled with a singular question: “What kind of trash are you?”

The question is aimed at the city’s daily 22,000 tons of household waste that, according to new rules implemented on  July 1, must be sorted into one of four color-coded bins: dry, wet, recyclable and hazardous, wrote.

While the categories may be clear, the rules are not. Chicken bones should go into the wet waste bin. Cell phone batteries are harmful waste but older batteries go into the dry garbage. Rubbish is to be delivered to designated points at certain hours in the morning or in the evening under the supervision of volunteers.

“Every day you wake up, with one question: Today what kind of trash will you be?” wrote a commentator on Sina Weibo in a widely circulated blog post titled, “The truth behind the garbage classification driving Shanghai residents crazy”.

Shanghai, home to about 23 million people, is the first in a nationwide push to raise China’s recycling rate, one of the lowest in the region at under 20 percent. By 2020, China hopes to bring that rate up to 35 percent in 46 Chinese cities and by 2025 to implement a nationwide urban waste sorting system.

The city has had since January to prepare, with hundreds of instructors holding training sessions on correct garbage sorting. Posters around the city detail what goes where, and an app provided by the city answers queries about specific items. Some 30,000 volunteers have been deployed to supervise the trash separating since the rules went into effect.

Still, residents have been so frustrated by the new rules that some have pledged to give up cooking or eating takeaway at home. At least one resident tried to ship his rubbish out of the city, according to local media. One frustrated woman throttled a volunteer trying to instruct how to sort her waste and was detained.

The public reaction is emblematic of the kind of top-down environmental policies China has been implementing for the last decade. In early June, Chinese leader Xi Jinping called trash sorting a kind of ‘new fashion’ and urged local governments to take more decisive action.

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