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Shanghai begins new waste sorting era, as China eyes cleaner image

Shanghai begins new waste sorting era, as China eyes cleaner image

Recyclables such as plastic must be separated from wet garbage, dry garbage and hazardous waste under the new rules in Shanghai. Photo: AFP

 

  • The city’s ambitious waste and recycling rules took effect on Monday, aiming to emulate successes of comparable policies in Japan, Taiwan and California

  • President Xi Jinping has urged China – the world’s second-biggest waste producer after the United States – to sort rubbish better

At 9pm, Li Zhigang was sitting in front of his fruit shop on a bustling street in central Shanghai’s Xujiahui area, peeling the thin layers of plastic from rotten pears and mangoes.

“This is so much trouble!” he mumbled to himself while throwing the plastic into one trash can and the fruit into another.

In the past, Li simply threw away what could not be sold with the packaging on, but from July 1 he could be fined up to 200 yuan (about US$30) for doing so.

Like Li, many of the tens of millions of residents in the eastern Chinese city have been complaining in recent weeks that the introduction of compulsory household garbage sorting is making life difficult, but at the same time have been having to learn to do it.

Calls for garbage sorting have brought little progress in China in the past decade, but Shanghai is leading a fresh start for the world’s second-largest waste producer with its new municipal solid waste (MSW) regime, observers have said.

China generated 210 million tonnes of MSW in 2017, 48 million tonnes less than the United States, according to the World Bank’s What a Waste database.

“If we say China is now classifying its waste, then it’s Shanghai that is really doing it,” said Chen Liwen, a veteran environmentalist who has worked for non-governmental organisations devoted to waste classification for the past decade.

“It’s starting late, comparing with the US, Japan or Taiwan, but if it’s successful in such a megacity with such a huge population, it will mean a lot for the world,” she said.

A cleaner re-sorts household waste left at a residential facility in Shanghai. Photo: Alice Yan

Household waste in the city is now required to be sorted into four categories: wet garbage (household food), dry garbage (residual waste), recyclable waste and hazardous waste.

General rubbish bins that had previously taken all types of household waste were removed from buildings. Instead, residents were told to visit designated trash collection stations to dispose of different types of waste during designated periods of the day.

Companies and organisations flouting the new rules could be fined 50,000-500,000 yuan (US$7,000-70,000), while individual offenders risked a fine of 50-200 yuan.

The city’s urban management officers will be mainly responsible for identifying those who breach the rules.

Huang Rong, the municipal government’s deputy secretary general, said on Friday that nearly 14,000 inspections had been carried out around the city and more than 13,000 people had been warned on the issue since the regulations were announced at the start of the year.

As July 1’s enforcement of the rules approached, it became a much-discussed topic among Shanghainese people. A hashtag meaning “Shanghai residents almost driven crazy by garbage classification” was one of the most popular on China’s Twitter-like Weibo platform.

“My daughter took a box of expired medicine from her workplace to the trash collection station near our home yesterday because she couldn’t find the local bin for hazardous waste,” Li said.

While the measures force a change of habits for most people, they bring opportunities for some.

Du Huanzheng, director of the Recycling Economy Institute at Tongji University, said waste sorting was crucial for China’s recycling industry.

“Without proper classification, a lot of garbage that can be recycled is burned, and that’s a pity,” he said. “After being classified, items suitable to be stored and transported can now be recycled.”

Shanghai’s refuse treatment plants deal with 19,300 tonnes of residual waste and 5,050 tonnes of kitchen waste every day, according to the municipal government. By contrast, only 3,300 tonnes of recyclables per day are collected at present.

Nationwide, the parcel delivery industry used more than 13 billion polypropylene woven bags, plastic bags and paper boxes as well as 330 million rolls of tape in 2016, but less than 20 per cent of this was recycled, according to a report by the State Post Bureau.

Prices of small sortable rubbish bins for home use have surged on e-commerce platforms, while bin makers are also developing smart models in response to new needs.

Some communities are deploying bins that people are required to sign in with their house number to use, and are equipped with a “big data analysis system”. The system records households have “actively participated” and which have not, so that neighbourhood management can publicise their addresses and make house visits, according to a report by Thepaper.cn.

In a residential community in Songjiang district, grocery store owner Nie Chuanguo has found something new to sell: a rubbish throwing service.

He has offered to visit homes, collect waste and throw it into the right bin at a designated time. He charges 30 yuan a month for those living on the ground and first floors, 40 yuan for those on the second and third, and 50 yuan for the fourth and fifth.

“This service will start from July 1. Many people have come to inquire about it,” he said.

According to Du, waste classification is not only about environmental impact or business opportunities. “Garbage sorting is an important part of a country’s soft power,” he said.

For China, it was an opportunity to improve its international reputation, he said. “In the past, Chinese people were rich and travelled abroad, but they threw rubbish wilfully, making foreigners not admit we are a respected powerhouse.”

He added: “It’s also related to 1.3 billion people’s health, since the current waste treatment methods – burying and burning – are not friendly to the environment.”

Shanghai’s part in tackling waste comes amid President Xi Jinping’s repeated calls for the country to sort waste better.

“For local officials, it is a political task,” said Chen, who heads a waste management programme in rural China called Zero Waste Villages.

Huang said the president had asked Shanghai in particular to set a good example in waste classification.

In March 2017, the central government set out plans for a standardised system and regulations for rubbish sorting by 2020, with a target for 46 major cities, including Shanghai, to recycle 35 per cent of their waste by then.

In early June, Xi issued a long statement calling for more action from local governments.

However, it was a long process that required input from individuals, government and enterprises, Du said.

“Japan took one generation to move to doing its waste sorting effectively, so we shouldn’t have the expectation that our initiative will succeed in several years,” Du said.

How China’s ban on plastic waste imports caused turmoil

“The lessons we can learn from Japan include carrying out campaigns again and again, and paying close attention to educating young pupils about rubbish classification.”

Chen echoed that Shanghai’s waste sorting frenzy now was only a beginning.

“What we can see now is that people are being pushed to sort waste by regulators, but what’s next? How shall we keep up the enthusiasm?” she asked.

She suggested that how well officials worked on garbage sorting should be included in their job appraisal, and that ultimately people should pay for waste disposal.

“The key to waste classification, going by international experience, is making polluters pay,” Chen said.

Most of Hong Kong and Taiwan’s dumped plastic bottles come from mainland

There is plenty of experience for Shanghai to learn from in California, where unrecyclable waste is charged for at twice the price of recyclables, and Taiwan, where people are charged only for disposal of residual waste, according to Chen.

Taiwan has one of the world’s most impressive recycling rates, with nearly 60 per cent of its waste between January and October last year having been recycled, according to the Taipei government.

The daily amount of garbage produced per person during that period was about 0.41kg – down substantially from 1.14kg in 1997 – the government said.

Hong Kong has tried to copy the Taipei model over the years but failed, with a recycling rate of MSW slightly above 30 per cent in recent years, according to official data.

The city has recently postponed a mandatory waste charging scheme until late 2020 at the earliest. Under its plan, 80 per cent of household waste will have to go into designated bags and will be priced at an average of 11 HK cents (1 US cent) per litre.

On Friday, Shanghai officials admitted that there were plenty of challenges involved in sorting and transport.

Zhang Lixin, deputy chief of the municipal housing administration, said: “Many property management companies fear the difficulties brought by garbage sorting or are reluctant to implement the new rules.”

The administration trained the heads of more than 200 companies across the city in April, he said.

“We do find that some cleaners and rubbish trucks mix the waste, despite residents being asked to throw different types in different bins,” said Deng Jianping, head of the city’s landscaping and city appearance administration – the government department spearheading the initiative.

In the interests of curbing such practices, they could face fines of up to 50,000 yuan or even have their licences revoked, he said.

U.S. weakens first global commitment on curbing single-use plastics

U.S. weakens first global commitment on curbing single-use plastics

NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Nations made their first global commitment towards curtailing the surging consumption of single-use plastics on Friday, but critics said it failed to confront the planet’s pollution crisis with the United States blocking efforts for more radical action.

After five days of talks in the Kenyan capital, ministers at the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) agreed to curb items like plastic bags, bottles and straws over the next decade as part of moves aimed at creating a more sustainable planet.

“We will address the damage to our ecosystems caused by the unsustainable use and disposal of plastic products, including by significantly reducing single-use plastic products by 2030,” said a ministerial declaration at the end of the summit.

Countries would “work with the private sector to find affordable and environmentally friendly alternatives,” it added.

The nearly 200 environment ministers also made a host of other commitments – ranging from reducing food waste and marine litter to developing and sharing innovative technologies and consulting indigenous people when developing policies.

But environmental campaigners said the governments’ commitment on curbing plastic was disappointing and failed to urgently confront the ever-growing pollution crisis threatening the world’s waterways, ecosystems and health.

Negotiators said most nations, including the European Union, at the UNEA backed stronger action suggested by India which wanted governments to commit to “phasing-out most problematic single-use plastic products by 2025”.

But a few countries led by the United States – and including Saudi Arabia and Cuba – played “spoiler” by watering down the text, replacing it with a commitment to “significantly reduce” single-use plastics by 2030, said negotiators and campaigners.

“The vast majority of countries came together to develop a vision for the future of global plastic governance,” said David Azoulay from the Center for International Environmental Law.

“Seeing the U.S., guided by the interests of the fracking and petrochemical industry, leading efforts to sabotage that vision is disheartening.”

Brian Doherty, a member of the U.S. delegation at the UNEA, told delegates there was a need to focus on waste management in countries which were major sources of marine plastic pollution, rather than focus on phasing out single use plastics.

“We support reducing the environmental impacts from the discharge of plastics, but we further note that the majority of marine plastic discharges comes from only six countries in Asia where improved waste management could radically decrease these discharges,” he said.

One million plastic drinks bottles are purchased every minute globally, while some 500 billion disposable plastic bags are used worldwide every year, said the United Nations.

Nearly a third of plastic packaging escapes waste collection systems, and at least 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into the oceans each year, smothering reefs and threatening marine life.

Plastic also enters water supplies and the food chain, where it could harm humans in the long term, the U.N. added.

Action is gearing up around the world – from countries banning plastic bags to companies vowing to cut their usage of plastic – yet still more efforts are needed to both reduce and recycle plastic, environmentalists said.

Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla and John Ndiso, Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org

Reporting by Nita Bhalla @nitabhalla and John Ndiso, Editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights and climate change. Visit news.trust.org
Greenpeace Ships Set Sail to Tackle the Global Plastic Pollution Crisis

Greenpeace Ships Set Sail to Tackle the Global Plastic Pollution Crisis

Corporations have created a plastic monster. More than 90 percent of the plastics ever produced have not been recycled, yet corporations have plans to dramatically increase their production of plastic packaging. With plastic production set to quadruple by 2050, recycling can never be enough to solve this problem.

But the global movement to hold these corporations accountable is growing. More than 3 million of you have joined us in urging companies to stop polluting our planet with throwaway plastic. And together with over 1,400 allies in the global Break Free From Plastic movement, we conducted 239 cleanups in 42 countries to identify the biggest corporate polluters.

In October, Greenpeace International released the Crisis of Convenience report, based on a survey to 11 of the biggest fast-moving consumer goods companies globally. Despite some of these companies publicly signing a voluntary, non-binding commitment to tackle the crisis, the report revealed that none of the companies surveyed currently have comprehensive plans to move away from single-use packaging; on the contrary, most of them have plans to increase the overall amount of plastic packaging they produce.

So now we are deploying the Greenpeace ships; the Rainbow Warrior and the Beluga, to tell the global story of where plastic pollution really starts and ends. We are rallying supporters worldwide to help hold these companies accountable and to make sure they follow up on their words with bold action. Because we don’t need more talk—we need concrete, urgent action to stop plastic pollution at the source!

greenpeace-rainbow-warrior

Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, has been surrounded by giant single-use plastic items in Mediterranean waters. The action seeks to make visible the invisible, and to denounce the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans, especially in the Mediterranean Sea.

Greenpeace’s flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, has been surrounded by giant single-use plastic items in Mediterranean waters. The action seeks to make visible the invisible, and to denounce the problem of plastic pollution in the oceans, especially in the Mediterranean Sea.

It’s time for Nestlé, Unilever, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo., Colgate, Danone, Johnson & Johnson and Mars to be transparent about exactly how much plastic packaging they are producing, and make concrete plans to reduce. It’s time for these corporations to invest in alternative ways to deliver their products to us and phase out single-use plastic.

These companies have created a monster, and we are not willing to allow the plastic monster to grow anymore. We need concrete plans for reduction, and we need them now. We need corporations to slay the plastic monster.

 

Stay tuned for more details about Greenpeace’s ships’ whereabouts in the coming weeks and months and to see how you can get involved!

Graham Forbes is Greenpeace’s global seafood markets project leader. Originally posted in EcoWatch.

EU moves to ban microplastics in most products

EU moves to ban microplastics in most products

(Photo by MPCA Photos)

 

This press release was originally issued by the Rethink Plastic alliance. The European policy alliance of the #breakfreefromplastic movement.

Brussels, 30 January 2019 – The EU will use its powerful chemical laws to stop most microplastics and microbeads being added to cosmetics, paints, detergents, some farm, medical and other products, according to a draft law due to be tabled today.

The European Chemicals Agency says that 10,000 to 60,000 tonnes of microplastics intentionally added to products leak into the environment yearly, are impossible to remove and last for thousands of years. The scale of the problem is dramatic: six times the size of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the plastic pollution generated by 10 billion plastic bottles, the agency says. Microplastics accumulate and persist in the environment, one of the main reasons why the agency concluded it is necessary to restrict microplastic ingredients under REACH, the strictest set of chemical laws in the world.

The restriction is expected to become law across Europe by 2020. It will prevent an estimated 400,000 tonnes of plastic pollution, the agency says. NGOs welcomed the move as a significant step forward, but strongly warn that it grants unnecessary delays for most industrial sectors and excludes some biodegradable polymers. As it stands, the draft law will only restrict one sector when it comes into force, namely cleansing products made by firms that have already pledged to stop using microplastic. Other sectors will be granted 2-6 years before the law takes effect. The proposal will go to public consultation this summer followed by economic, social and risk assessments, then a vote by government experts in the secretive REACH committee not before early 2020.

Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer for the European Environmental Bureau, said on behalf of Rethink Plastic: “The European Union is rapidly becoming a leader in the global culture shift away from wasteful plastic. Microplastic is one of those vast but largely invisible problems; a menace all around and in us. It was fed by irresponsible firms, such as those making personal care products that decided to swap out natural ingredients like ground almond, coconut shell and olive seed for plastic microbeads. We’ll be pushing hard to tighten this proposal to ensure real impact. Tackling the plastics inside products is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to solving the microplastic blight, but is a necessary step.”

The ban is part of the EU plastics strategy that saw Europe become the first continent to start banning many types of single use plastic by 2021.

ENDS

PRESS CONTACTS:

Roberta Arbinolo, Communications Coordinator, Rethink Plastic alliance
 +32 2 736 20 91roberta@rethinkplasticalliance.eu

Elise Vitali, chemicals policy officer, European Environmental Bureau
elise.vitali@eeb.org

Alice Bernard, Lawyer, Chemicals, ClientEarth
ABernard@clientearth.org

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/uAiIGd_JqZc” frameborder=”0″ allow=”accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture” allowfullscreen></iframe>

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Read the proposal and the annex.

Silliman University Commits to Zero Waste and Sustainability

Silliman University Commits to Zero Waste and Sustainability

Dumaguete, Philippines – Silliman University (SU), a private university in the central part of the Philippines, is implementing a new policy that eliminates single-use plastic bags and aims towards Zero Waste, the first university in the country to do so. SU’s new environmental policy was approved unanimously by its Board of Trustees (BOT) on November 17.

 

The university’s commitment to the prevention of environmental pollution, conservation and enhancement of natural resources, and sustainability is defined in the Environmental Principles, Policies, Guidelines and Best Practices that the SU BOT has adopted in full.

 

SU’s environmental policy will translate to action the university’s recognition of its calling to be a community of stewards of creation, and is in line with its perspective of “total human development for the well-being of society and environment.” The university seeks to be a model of a sustainable campus “by demonstrating the principles of Zero Waste, the waste management hierarchy, energy conservation and renewable energy utilization, biodiversity conservation, and a reduced carbon footprint.” 

 

The policy provides for the application of environmental principles in five policy areas: waste prevention and management, green procurement, food and food waste, events and festivals, and greening of the campus. It reiterates the university’s belief that everyone is a stakeholder and has a role to play in sustainability, and therefore “engages the whole Silliman community, the city we live in, and beyond.”

 

By being a model and incorporating environmental issues into its teaching, research, and community service, Silliman hopes that students entering the university will leave with a deeper commitment to sustainability and with the competence to protect the environment wherever their lives may take them.

 

One immediate focus of Silliman University starting this semester is to improve on-campus waste management, announced SU president Betty Cernol-McCann during the All-University Academic Convocation on November 19.

 

“The practice of proper waste management in the University shall be effective immediately,” said Dr. McCann. “Henceforth, all trash cans will be properly labeled and faculty, staff, and students will be asked to segregate waste accordingly. Waste Management Committee members and volunteers will visit each building to label bins and provide instructions on segregation.” All biodegradable wastes from the campus, she said, will be composted with the assistance of the College of Agriculture. Meanwhile, reuse and recycling of all recyclable materials will be maximized.

 

Another immediate focus of the University is to minimize plastic waste.  “We will intensify our drive against one-use plastics and prohibit bringing to campus containers and wrappers that contribute heavily to waste pollution,” Dr. McCann added. In support of the international Break Free From Plastics movement, she said, a consistent media campaign and Information, Education and Communication strategy will be employed to disseminate information on the policies and guidelines associated with this objective.

 

The blueprint for action was developed by a team led by Dr. Jorge Emmanuel, Adjunct Professor at the Institute of Environmental and Marine Sciences (IEMS) and a Balik Scientist under the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). Questions or suggestions may be sent to the Waste Management Committee coordinated by the office of the SU president. The full text of the SU Environmental Principles, Policies, Guidelines, and Best Practices is available at: http://su.edu.ph/silliman-university-environmental-principles-policy-and-guidelines-2018/  

//ends

Contact: Madeline B. Quiamco, PhD

Office of Information and Publications

Phone:    +63-35-420.6002 extension 230

Email:     oip@su.edu.ph

Photo Essay: By The Ocean We Unite

Photo Essay: By The Ocean We Unite

Photo: @estrellafb

by: Anouk Van De Beek

Imagine being on a sailing ship, only seeing the ocean’s vastness, working with the elements, no other distractions whatsoever. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean in 2014 Dutch sailor Thomas van Thiel was already ten days out on the open sea when he suddenly saw a plastic bottle floating around. He was shocked, seeing something man-made that far from civilization. He started to see plastic everywhere and decided to take action. By the ocean we unite was born – a foundation that contributes to research worldwide, creates awareness and educates and activates people, organisations and governments to make much needed changes. It only takes one decision to start a whole movement.

The Mediterranean is one of the most polluted seas of the world. If on this tiny piece of the earth along the coast we easily fill up a bag with garbage that big that we literally have to push it through the door of our campervan, we can only feel confronted with our own behaviour; this is how we are treating the earth. It is not them, it is all of us, it is everywhere. 80% of all the waste in our oceans comes from land. Start cleaning your environment whenever you can! It is not THE solution. Letting the plastics go through your own hands does make you feel part of the problem, it makes you feel responsible. You’ll start to think of solutions, preventing more plastic from ending up in the ocean by reducing it at source.

 

You can see the whole documentary online, for free! www.anoukvandebeek.com

In 2016 it all came together: my love for the ocean, my desire to experience filmmaking and the need I felt to communicate a message about humans and the ocean. Thomas from By The Ocean We Unite asked me to join him and tell the world about the ocean. One subject stayed with us, it was tangible, we could not neglect it: plastic. This planet is a blue planet, seen from space. What happens when the biggest part of our planet is filled up with plastic in the form of bigger plastics, micro plastics and nano plastics? Our journey had started, we gathered a team for our first sailing expedition ‘Up to Norway’. By now, so many awesome people have joined us on our mission, Ziggy Alberts being one of them. His song ‘The Ocean Song’ immediately came to my mind when I started to make ‘By the Ocean we Unite – an awareness journey into plastic pollution’.

Throwing away is something we do naturally, it is part of the cycle of life. The problem is that ‘away’ is not ‘away’ when we talk about plastic. It can easily take more than a lifetime for it to disappear. By that time it will have killed animals and polluted our environment. Even many biodegradable products will only degrade under certain circumstances and not in the open environment, let alone in the ocean, where most of the waste from land ends up anyway. On the contrary, throwing away a piece of apple or carrot will contribute to a nice compost for our plants and trees, building a healthy soil. These days I am enjoying throwing away organic material and compost it. . Start throwing away more things that benefit the earth! Grow your own food, start to plant trees and buy more plastic free products.

 

 

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