As of last month, more than 4 million households in Shanghai were enrolled in the "green account" program, which was launched in 2013. Points accrued are redeemable for items such as milk, soap, toothpaste, phone cards, tickets to tourist attractions, and payment of utility bills.
The city's environmental authorities have partnered with Alipay so that points can also be redeemed for coupons at online supermarkets.
The volume of garbage burned or sent to landfills in Shanghai dropped to 16,491 tons a day at the end of last year from 18,902 tons five years earlier. Most of that decline is credited to garbage sorting. Last year, 2,400 tons of wet garbage was recycled.
Feilin encourages residents to come and view how sorted garbage is recycled into productive use, said Zhou Meifeng, the organization's secretary-general.
"Residents may feel garbage sorting is complicated and troublesome, but inviting them to come and see what we are doing can be very persuasive," she said.
The organization conducts training classes for volunteers and resident representatives from each building, and visits schools with educational messages on recycling. Neighborhood committee officials also visit households who haven't signed up for "green accounts." The efforts have paid off.
"At first, I wasn't willing to sort garbage because it wasn't convenient, but it has become a habit now, and it's not troublesome once you get used to it," said retiree Zhou Changrong. "Recycling makes for a cleaner environment."
Feilin has been involved in garbage sorting and recycling at three residential complexes in Jing'an and is expanding to cover all communities in the Xuhui District.
The organization hosted a night tour for children from the Aijianyuan residential complex in Xuhui to visit the Shanghai Botanical Garden last summer. The event was aimed at raising the eco-awareness of children and getting them to appreciate the idea of garbage sorting as part of a nature-friendly environment.
"We hope to interest more youngsters in garbage sorting by such events," said Zhou.
The Springs Residences complex in Yangpu District has 996 households and started garbage sorting as early as 2015. It uses another approach that involves the property management company.
At first, only 20 percent of households were participating in garbage sorting, according to Kang Qingde, secretary of the neighborhood's comprehensive management center.
The neighborhood committee began working with the property management company, Colliers International, as the city called for more efforts in garbage sorting.
"We found that many residents couldn't distinguish between dry and wet garbage," said a property manager surnamed Ye. "So we have distributed information about that on a WeChat account of all property owners and we have also used posters and multimedia to get the message across."
To drive the point home, the neighborhood committee had to be even more innovative.
"We came up with a system to rate the performance of households," Kang said.
Cleaners at the complex serve as examiners, giving scores on garbage sorting efforts and posting the results on the first floors every week. Those who fail to sort garbage properly are given a yellow star instead of a red one. Each floor gets a performance appraisal.
"The system plays on the self-esteem of people," Kang said.
But peer pressure works. Some 91 percent of residents now sort their garbage.
To make garbage rooms a less odious experience, cleaners keep the areas tidy and sweet-smelling.
The community has been selected as a model complex of garbage sorting by the Yangpu District Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau.
In Shanghai, garbage sorting and recycling extends into all areas of life. Schools, hospitals and government offices will be included in a compulsory program by the end of this year.