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Daily Drip

Shanghai Has Radical New Recycling Laws and People are Going Crazy

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In Shanghai, a new wave is sweeping the city –– sorting garbage.

The unexpected trend comes about as a result of the new Domestic Waste Management Law, which went into effect on July 1st. The law requires all Shanghai residents and corporate entities to classify trash into four categories: wet, dry, recyclable, and toxic. If you get caught tossing the wrong trash into the wrong bin, you have three chances to “repent” before paying fines.

“My old classmate in Shanghai just invited me to visit him. I suspect he just needs help with garbage-sorting, so I decisively turned him down!”

Weeks before the day of implementation, the city began wading into a stage of “all-nighter cramming.” Everywhere you go, online or on the streets, you’ll likely find yourself surrounded by garbage-sorting trivia. Napkins? Dry waste. Wet napkins? Still dry waste. Crawfish? Wet waste. What about doggy-do, batteries, unused medicine? The diverse segmentation of garbage has truly formed a thick layer of sludge around the city’s collective consciousness.

Whenever something like this happens, it creates a sense of community amongst the city’s residents — young or old, rich or poor, everyone is affected. And so it’s only natural for those feelings to be expressed.

Sometimes via mobile trivia apps…

…or through virtual reality installations…

…or Peppa Pig infographics…

…or the centuries-old art of trash can drumming:

And if you want to take this garbage-sorting show on the road, Taobao has a belt for that:

It’s pretty evident that the garbage-sorting phenomenon has all but seized the minds of Shanghai’s residents. It’s a hassle, it’s a new responsibility, and it could be a 200RMB fine — but at the end of the day, it’s the city stepping up to help protect our planet. And if we gotta spend a few hours brushing up on our garbage-sorting skills to do that, then so be it.

Erica Hu
    Erica Hu is a journalism student at Ohio State University. She loves poetry, photography, music, and hiking trips. She’s also an environmentalist currently exploring and documenting a Zero Waste lifestyle.