Kindergarten students learn to sort waste into four categories in a game in Rugao, Jiangsu province, earlier in June. (XU HUI/FOR CHINA DAILY)
China plans to speed up mandatory household garbage sorting by writing it into law, a move hailed by experts who believe it will promote public participation - the biggest factor hindering sorting in the past two decades.
The draft amendment to the Law on the Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste was submitted to legislators for deliberation on Tuesday as the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress kicked off its bimonthly session.
Governments above county-level areas are required to accelerate the construction of garbage treatment systems with dumping, collection, transportation and disposal all done in a sorted manner. They should also draft charging standards for trash treatment and make them public after adequately soliciting public opinion, according to the draft amendment.
China launched its first pilot program for household garbage sorting in 2000, but it has yet to see marked progress. As the latest government effort, the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development with eight other government bodies made public a circular on June 6, requiring more than 300 major Chinese cities to start garbage sorting this year.
According to the circular, all the cities must have compiled a plan to implement garbage sorting by the end of the year.
Liu Jianguo, a professor from the School of Environment at Tsinghua University, welcomed the draft amendment as it could help address low public participation, which is the greatest challenge in promoting waste sorting.
A report by Shenzhen-headquartered Vanke Foundation and Dataway, a market research and consulting firm in Beijing, late last year showed that 86.6 percent of interviewees think it's everyone's responsibility to sort garbage. But half the interviewees agreed that to some extent they failed to classify garbage because others did not.
The report was based on interviews with 3,627 residents in 17 of the 46 cities that the central authorities required in 2017 to separate hazardous waste, kitchen waste and recyclable materials by 2020.
"It's a must to have a legal guarantee to promote garbage sorting," Liu said, adding that the use of incentives to encourage public participation in garbage sorting has proved ineffective, so it needs compulsory measures to change people's behaviors.
Some cities have taken the lead in making garbage sorting mandatory through local legislation. Shanghai's first regulation on domestic waste management, which will take effect on Monday, covers reducing the amount of garbage produced at source, ensuring separate transportation of different kinds of garbage, improving the waste treatment facilities and promoting social participation.
The public should sort household trash into four categories - dry garbage, wet kitchen waste, recyclables and hazardous waste. Individual violators will face fines up to 200 yuan ($30), and companies and institutions will be fined up to 50,000 yuan if they do not follow the rules.