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Trash talk: the basics of Beijing's city-wide household garbage sorting system

What you need to know about the new trash sorting rules

Photo: Paweł Czerwiński/Unsplash.com
From May 1 next year, Beijing will be enforcing a city-wide mandatory household garbage sorting system as part of its plan to tackle environmental problems caused by trash.

The revised rules are an update from the 2012 regulations, which will now require individuals and businesses to also take responsibility for their own trash sorting.

The new rules were announced on Wednesday at a session of the Standing Committee of the 16th meeting of the 15th Beijing Municipal People's Congress. Some basic things you need to know about the new law are:

1. Trash will be classified into four types: Kitchen Waste, Recyclables, Hazardous Waste and Other Waste.

2. Individuals and businesses are responsible for the proper sorting and disposal of the garbage they produce.

3. The government aims to implement an 'Educate First, Punish Later' rule for sorting trash, and so individuals who fail to follow the rules will first be given a chance to volunteer to help sort trash though we're not quite sure yet if this applies to foreigners as well before being asked to pay fines. But repeat offenders will be fined between 50 to 200RMB and between 1,000 to 50,000RMB for businesses.

4. Catering operators, delivery service providers and hotels are not allowed to proactively provide disposable items and will be required to post notices in their respective establishments regarding this. More information on this from the relevant departments in the future.

5. Supermarkets, malls, trade fairs and other similar establishments will be banned from using thin plastic bags, but more importantly, the production and sale of these plastic bags will be prohibited as well.

6. Courier companies, aka kuaidis, will be required to use electronic receipts and degradable, reusable, environmentally-friendly packaging materials to reduce the excessive waste produced by deliveries.

7. The government is also encouraging businesses and institutions to reduce consumption and save resources. Offices are encouraged to go paperless, use recycled paper more and to avoid using disposable cups.

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Designated garbage container colours will be announced in the future

In a city that saw the previous year treat around 25,500 tonnes of waste daily, with more than 86 percent of that poured into incineration and landfill sites, and the recent news of China's largest dumpsite already full 25 years ahead of schedule – this comes as a temporary sigh of relief. Especially considering the fact that, in a survey done almost a month ago across Chinese cities, 95 percent of Chinese people are actually willing to sort their trash. Now finally, there are rules those of us in Beijing to actually start doing this.

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