Tuesday, March 31, 2015

China Recycles Everything Everywhere

China sidewalk waste bins
I was in China last year for my son’s wedding. Got to see some incredible sights, and was quite impressed with how much China recycles and how. It is common to see people rummaging through trash bins to pull out plastic everywhere. You also have to do a double take when you see a motorcycle or scooter, with a twelve foot tall load of Styrofoam strapped on. Every trash can I saw, including in some of the private residences, had one bin for recyclables and one for “other waste”. Another cool feature of waste bins in bigger cities are fly traps hanging discreetly in nearby trees. Waste containers in China came in all shapes and sizes, and nearly all offered recycling options. I took pictures of a few along the way.
City Park
National Park

You see these in city parks, walking down streets, national parks, malls, pretty much everywhere. Not only do they have a recycle bin next to every trash bin, they label them in Mandarin and English and have pictures of what goes in each bin. Just like we recommend!
Styrofoam Recycler on a bike
China has serious pollution problems including air and water quality. It was great to see China making strides to recycle but air quality has a long ways to go. I saw so many cars and it seems everyone has a scooter, even though public transportation is everywhere. I think one of the big causes of pollution is all the small engines running motorcycles, scooters, construction equipment, and trucks al spewing out exhaust plumes. I expected to see more bicycles, but it seems motors have taken over.
I can’t talk about China without mentioning bath rooms. We did find Western style toilets in a few rare spots but most of China uses the Asian system. It is basically a nice porcelain hole in the floor, and by the way you do not throw your toilet paper into the toilet….ever ! You will find a trash can nearby for your toilet paper. Also you will rarely find paper towels to dry your hands even though wash sinks are very common. You just wash your hands and fling off most of the water. No wasted paper in China!
The Chinese people we met were very nice and happy to help even when we had no way of speaking with them. Lots of pantomiming and often times an older person would call out to a younger person to come over and help. Most of the younger people in China have the ability to speak English to some degree. All in all our trip was great. Personally I could never live around so many people all the time. The noise never stops. We finally found some solitude by walking miles down a farm lane far from the city.
We spent some time on bamboo rafts poling up and down a river. Beautiful scenery! My son told us to make sure we never drink tap water in China because the water systems are not like ours and most water sources are polluted. Bottled water is even more prevalent in China than it is in the US. At least in China most of those plastic bottles get recycled!

One thing I did not see in China was compostable packaging of any kind. Lots of plastic and Styrofoam, but no compostable containers anywhere. Crazy since most of the compostable plastics used in the USA are manufactured in China and shipped over here. Our supplier World Centric is working on manufacturing more compostable products like our utensils in the USA so we don’t have the carbon footprint of shipping from Asia to the US. Do your part. Make the switch if you have not done so already and leave petroleum based plastics in the past where they belong. Recycling is good, but compostables are better!