Business / Economy

Cities tackle garbage crisis

By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou and Shi Yingying in Shanghai (China Daily) Updated: 2012-09-18 00:20

Residents and companies have been testing a pilot project to reduce the amount of garbage produced in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, as the city tries to tackle its garbage crisis.

The new system requires local residents to pay extra if they dump more garbage, but to pay less for less rubbish, according to Bao Lunjun, chief engineer of the Guangzhou administrative committee of urban management.

Bao said that Guangzhou, which has a population of more than 16 million people, plans to be able to deal with more than 15,000 metric tons of garbage a day by 2015 to help solve its garbage problem. The city can now only process about 12,000 tons of garbage per day, which is not enough.

Residents will also be fined 50 yuan ($7.90) if they don't sort their garbage before dumping it into designated waste receptacles in their housing estates, while companies will be fined 500 yuan for each cubic meter of garbage that they dump before sorting it.

No fines will be issued in the initial three months of the project, from September to November.

"We are mainly persuading and educating locals to sort their garbage in this three-months period," Bao said.

Currently, every family in the city pays garbage fees of 15 yuan a month.

Under the new system, each family in the pilot housing estates will receive 60 special liners each month — 30 for kitchen waste and 30 for other garbage.

Families needing extra bags will have to buy them, which may lead to an increase of the fees for some people.

Also, only garbage in the special bags can be dumped in the housing estates' waste receptacles, or families will be fined, Bao said.

The Guangzhou city government will invest more than 400 million yuan to buy new equipment to help sort garbage this year, according to Bao.

Zheng Fenming, director of the institute of modernization strategy at the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences, said that authorities should raise the residents' environmental awareness level.

"In addition to the introduction of the new system, residents who sort the garbage at home and reduce their garbage should be rewarded," he said.

Wang Liqing, a Guangzhou housewife, said that she was in favor of sorting garbage, but opposed the introduction of additional fees.

"More fees will increase the burden of low-income families in Guangzhou," she said.

Similar penalties of 50 yuan may apply to residents of Hangzhou if the regulation on domestic garbage management is passed by the fifth executive session of the local government.

Even though the regulation proposing fines for those who refuse to sort their garbage is still under discussion and awaiting further revision, residents of Hangzhou are already showing their disapproval.

"I think we can't be in a hurry to fine Hangzhou residents who fail to sort their garbage," said Xu Ying, a section chief at Sinopec's Zhejiang branch. "Even my daughter, a senior at Zhejiang University, doesn't know how to sort it, so how can you expect the old and the uneducated to do it properly?"

"On top of that, how can the officers fine offenders, especially at an individual level?" she added, "Are they expected to stand there and watch the rubbish bins, or are they counting on other people to report offences?"

Hu Kaisen, founder of Shanghai Futian Environmental Protection Educator, a grassroots NGO dedicated to garbage classification for over five years in Shanghai, said it's too early to apply mandatory penalties on garbage sorting on the Chinese mainland.

"Taiwan is doing that, but over 50 percent of the people there have been doing it voluntary, which means that a portion of the people there are not against it," said Hu. "We're not ready here, residents don't have that level of awareness."

Education would be a better solution at the current stage, Hu said.

"Last week, we launched a pilot project for a real-name registration system on disposable bags to monitor garbage classification in Shanghai's Songjiang district — we send out rubbish bags with codes on them everyday and in the meantime we tell the residents of selected points how to sort the garbage by going there and knocking on people's doors," he said.

Even though only 60 percent of residents in the three selected residential areas are willing to use the real-name disposal bags, Hu believes that this is already "great progress".

Yang Yinghong, head of a Shanghai-based clothes recycling company and a former member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was included in a research group on garbage sorting two years ago in Shanghai.

Yang said that he heard that Shanghai might also apply fines soon to spur residents to do a better job on waste sorting.

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Zhou Qinnan in Shanghai contributed to this story.

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