Wednesday, 6 July 2022 – 16:27

Shanghai’s strict new recycling laws

Shanghai residents face fines and social credit penalties if they violate the new complex recycling laws. The new laws have been implemented across Shanghai for nearly three weeks.

The new policy has been introduced to improve the cities recycling rates, which is currently only around 10%- according to the BBC.

Shanghai is China’s largest city, with a population of over 26 million, so provides a large experiment for the new policies to be tested. 

The city is also China’s largest producer of waste, producing around 9 million tonnes a year.

The new regime will mean waste will be divided into four different colour coded bins for the varying types of waste: dry, wet, recyclable and hazardous. These categories have created some issues for residents, with some of the rules being confusing. For instance, chicken bones should go in the wet waste bin, while pork bones in the dry waste. 

This has resulted in confusion among residents while they get their head around the new rules, even though the months prior the government held training sessions to inform locals. The city hired thousands of instructors to hold these training sessions.

This confusion has been further perpetuated with citizens fearing the consequences if they do not abide by the set rules. It is reported that not complying with the rules could result in a 200 yuan fine (£23), with companies facing up to 50,000 yuan (£5,777).

Additionally, there are threats to cut peoples social credit ratings. The credit ranking system is a judge of behaviour and trustworthiness, tracking citizens financial and social behaviour to determine this. The score can affect job prospects, acceptance into private schools and even bans on flying.

Some have commented the new laws are an “eco-dictatorship”.

Geoffrey Chun-Fung Chen, a lecturer in China Studies, said: “This is what people call authoritarian environmentalism. It’s not environmentally based consciousness from the bottom. It’s a sort of eco-dictatorship, a very strange but somehow effective mode of governance.”

Some residents have been unimpressed with the amount of effort they need to put into the waste disposal process.

Shen, a 68-year-old resident, said: “Plastic bags have to be put in one bin and if they are dirty, they must be cleaned out, and then your hands get filthy. It’s really unhygienic.” 

However, some would argue this promotes citizens to have a more considered view about the rubbish they are throwing away.

It is hoped the new rules will help China recycle more than 35% of its overall waste, by 2020. 46 cities have been listed to trial the new rules.

Jane Zhao, the founder at Plastic Ecological Transformation (P.E.T.), said: “No separation equals incineration. [Sorting actually] gives your waste a chance to be recycled.”

While in the UK, household recycling rates reached 45.7% in 2017– with targets being set for at least 50% of household waste to be recycled by 2020. 

In 2000/01 only 12% of household waste was recycled in England and Wales, but this was rapidly increased when kerbside recycling was introduced in 2003. 

Although knowing what can be recycled in the UK can be confusing, the rules are not as strict as those in Shanghai.

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