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Recycling - Chinese Style E-mail
City Life - Report
Written by Mary Higgins
I was having a major tidy-up of the apartment over the weekend. Given the smallness of the apartment and the rather large accumulation of junk over the years, I had made the decision that a whole bunch of stuff just “had to go”. Books already read, DVDs already watched, kitchen utensils unneeded, small items of furniture taking up space, all this stuff was surplus to my needs.

But - in such a needy world - I honestly felt bad just “throwing out” this stuff! A lot of it was perfectly good stuff, and if I was back home I probably would’ve donated it to a charity store or something, but what to do here in Xi'an/China? Then of course, I realised: the right thing to do IS just to chuck it out, because in China, nothing is ever really “thrown out”. In fact, China operates a comprehensive, if informal, recycling hierarchy.

First, I give my “rubbish” to my ayi to “throw out”. She then exercises her discretion in what she puts in the bins in the apartment stairwell and what she takes home to give to her family, neighbours, friends, etc. Perfectly o.k.! Then the cleaners who empty the bins in the apartment stairwell do a very thorough job as they are emptying those bins. Anything that looks remotely like an identifiable and potentially useful object will be rescued by them from the bins before they are sent to the garbage collection depot in the apartment compound.

Then the guys who come with the truck to collect the garbage go through this rubbish at the garbage collection depot again, in case the cleaners missed any identifiable objects, and then collect anything that is remotely recycleable: plastic, paper, scrap metal, etc. I have never observed the process any further than this, but I am sure the rubbish is given several more thorough goings-over before it is finally considered “garbage” and sent finally to the landfill or incinerator.

The moral of the story? Never have any qualms about “throwing out” anything in China. It is a different but effective system!

Our valuable Editor Mary Higgins has been with us since Tuesday, 24 November 2009.

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