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Into battle with the waste warriors

By Xu Lin | China Daily | Updated: 2018-08-18 11:12
Tang Beijia (right) and fellow zero-waste advocates at an exhibition during Beijing Design Week last October. [Photo provided to China Daily]

"It's not only about reducing waste, but also a dialogue with your inner self. It's a self-exploration. You will understand what makes you happy when you encounter your material desire. I don't need to buy brand-new clothes to make me happy. I get a kick in other ways, such as talking to other people about what we can do reducing waste."

Even though the followers of her social media account are predominantly young, she sometimes looks to older people for wisdom, she says. She is inspired by their having had to live through times of hardship or material shortage. For example, before plastic bags became prevalent in recent years, these people used to take bamboo baskets with them when they went to food markets, she says.

"As we have become better off materially and life has become easier we have forgotten about these very practical things. But going zero waste is a personal choice, and you should not try to force it upon others. On the other hand, once you become aware that it takes several hundred years for plastic to degrade, you cannot pretend you do not know.

"There is no ready-made formula for zero waste. We can all do our own thing in our very own way to support the idea, such as being a vegetarian and not having food delivered."

Zero waste differs from danshari, or declutter, a concept created by the Japanese author Hideko Yamashita, known for her book of the same name, Tang says.

"Danshari aims to help people shun clutter and get rid of unwanted stuff. But when proponents of zero waste throw things away, we think hard about where they will all end up, how it will be processed and what impact it will have on the environment."

For Tang and her zero waste allies, part of the challenge is trying to win over people who tend to dismiss individual action as meaningless, looking instead to government policy and action to change things.

"But many are willing to go zero waste, and we hope to influence them. It's a fashionable lifestyle that appeals to youngsters. More and more university and high school students are becoming conscious of the issue."

One such is Du Xuanxuan, 20, a first-year student at a university in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province.

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