Long ago Mr. Xi Jinping, president of the People’s Republic of China, unveiled his plan to remove and renew the recycling in China. One might expect a certain level of organisation from the most populated country in the world, but this hasn’t been the case for China so far. Plastic and glass alike was not adequately recycled. Villages surrounding larger cities are often turned into rubbish dumps, abandoned in critical states.

The concept of sorting waste is still new here, and most people do not distinguish between glass and plastic recycling waste, though a plan for this is in place for 2020. Xi Jinping has set new goals for the country’s recycling system, following the failure of a pilot waste-sorting scheme launched in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou in 2000.

On June 3rd, China’s president stated his plans for the programme, saying that “extensive education and guidance should be carried out to make the people realize the importance and necessity of garbage sorting.” The speech has seen a spike in local recycling activity; Shanghai officials were among the first to release a local plan to implement household waste sorting, even going live on television to show residents how to recycle plastic bottles

Local authorities need time to turn the President’s words into action – in the past two years, the only real change made is an increase in the number of public bins. Some suggest that schools should introduce education on recycling to obtain more substantial results.

According to a recent study, most Chinese people don’t know what the different bins are for, while many only start to learn the difference when they travel abroad. Mrs Xu, a 29-year-old from Beijing, told national television: “I didn’t know what to do with them [the bins], as for decades, we never recycled anything. I started to understand when I moved to Japan – in every house there, there is an illustration and instructions.”

In Beijing, the problem has to be tackled soon, given that the city now creates nine million tonnes of domestic garbage a year. Most of it is simply poured into landfill sites, where the odour and the health risks are getting to worrying levels. Nowadays, about 30% of Beijing’s domestic waste is recycled, while authorities hope to increase this to 90% by 2020. In order to reach this goal, the government needs to educate people, whilst also supporting local districts in the collection of recycled waste, in order to reduce the likelihood of an inhospitable environment in the future.

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