17 April 2007

Recycling in China

Every now and then, the news would have a story about some environmental problem in China as the country catches up to Western standard. The Yellow River is overused for some industry, sand storm blasting Beijing because of destruction of trees, you name it. So it was comforting during my recent visit to see most of the public trash receptacles having separate containers for recyclables and non-recyclables, such as shown in this photo, taken at the San Ya Nan Shan Cultural Tourism Zone in San Ya, Hai Nan Island. In some other places, I spotted plastic containers set aside just for the purpose of collecting used batteries. Of course, it's one thing for the government to make available the recycle bins and it's something else for the average person to be aware of them. Even in my office in the U.S. of A., the recycle bins often have non-recyclables in them.

Just as some U.S. states have bottle-recycling laws, whereby empty soda cans and bottles are worth a nickel or more each, in China, there's a market for plastic, glass, and paper. Bottles for drinking water had some value, as I saw old ladies here and there collecting them. In Tai Cheng, I noticed many people wandering on bicycles, with a wagon behind them, picking up recyclable items. They usually have a glass bottle mounted on the bike's handle bars, on which they would tap periodically to draw attention to themselves. Perhaps they pay a small price for the materials, or got them for free, what I know for sure is that their wagons usually had things in them.

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