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China’s zero-covid policy causes avalanche of waste

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The closures and restrictions of China to combat the largest outbreak of covid in the country since the first days of the pandemic are causing a large increase in garbage in its largest cities.

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Waste related to Covid prevention, such as that generated by hospitals, fever clinics and isolation facilities, increased 4.5 times to 1,400 tons per day in Shanghai, up from 308 tons before the current outbreak began in March. The city of 25 million people has been in lockdown for five weeks and daily covid-related household waste reached 3,300 tons this month, compared to just 73 tons a day in February, according to the outlet. People’s Daily.

Even Hong Kong, which recently underwent months of lighter restrictions such as the closure of schools, bars and gyms, as well as limits on seating capacity and restaurant hours, has faced a growing problem of litter on the streets. .


About 373 million people in 45 Chinese cities were in full or partial lockdown last month, according to Nomura Holdings Inc.. That equates to more than three-quarters of the population of the European Union. And while the number of new cases in Shanghai is declining, Beijing and other Chinese cities are tightening restrictions to curb their own outbreaks. That has led to a surge in food deliveries and online shopping, which use much more packaging material, putting a strain on China’s already overtaxed waste disposal system.

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The country generates hundreds of millions of tons of urban household waste every day, and since most Chinese families do not sort their garbage, 97% of it is buried or incinerated. Most of China’s 654 landfills are filled ahead of schedule and its 286 incineration plants have insufficient capacity.

In Guijie, a busy street in Beijing famous for being full of restaurants – more than 100 -, there are no diners since Beijing banned eating in restaurants in early May. The long lines, usual before the recent outbreak, have been replaced by hordes of food delivery men in uniforms and helmets.

“It is faster to send shipments because there are basically no cars on the streets”said Xiao Yaoa food delivery man from Meituan. “Restaurants don’t need to spend time for people to eat there”.

Authorities in Beijing and Shanghai have promised to increase transportation and waste disposal. The Beijing government has promised that it will ensure that all household waste is cleaned and managed “on time” and low “good standards”. Shanghai has built three new medical waste disposal facilities, increasing this capacity to 1,500 tons per day.

“Currently, our waste transportation and disposal capacity is sufficient”said Xu Li, deputy director of the Municipal Commission for Urban Management from Peking. “We will intensify inspections at waste collection sites and disposal facilities, and resolve any issues in time”.

But China is struggling to deal with a flood of waste generated by online shopping that was already on the rise even before the pandemic. greenpeace has estimated that online shopping in China generated 9.4 million tons of packaging material in 2018, and that could rise to 41 million tons by 2025.

“In the long term, China should work on a system where those who produce waste, both companies and individuals, should pay for the disposal of that waste and take more responsibility.”said Tang Daminproject manager for Greenpeace East Asia.

Source: Gestion

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