Rural Families in Inner Mongolia Get Ahead of the Trash-Sorting Curve

Author:Li Lei and Yuan Hui August 3, 2020
Rural Families in Inner Mongolia Get Ahead of the Trash-Sorting Curve
Villager Jiang Yunhuan returns home after throwing out garbage in Tuquan, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, in July, 2020. Twelve villages in the county joined a pilot program for rural domestic waste sorting last year. [For China Daily/Zou Hong]


Garbage sorting has topped the agendas of China's first-tier cities as landfills scramble to cope with ever-increasing waste. The logic behind it: the usually better-educated urban residents will adapt more easily when the practice of dumping all waste into one bin abruptly ends.

But with efforts also picking up in a dozen remote Chinese villages near the border with Mongolia, officials have come to realize that frugality, celebrated as a top virtue among hundreds of millions of less affluent rural people, is also facilitating the change.

"Before the rules were enforced in the village last year, I had already been sorting garbage, though very roughly," said Zheng Huanqing, a farmer from Taiping township in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

For generations, his extensive family has been using chicken droppings and kitchen leftovers to generate organic fertilizers that have been widely used in rural backyard gardens that grow fruits and vegetables.

Pesticide containers were stacked away to keep children and animals from getting poisoned after some accidents raised public awareness of the issue.

Cardboard and other recyclables were also put away so they could be sold to scavengers who would visit regularly.

"The things that often went to the dustbins were actually broken bricks and plastic bags, which were not much to begin with," Zheng said.

Last year, authorities in Tuquan County, which oversees the township, rolled out a set of garbage sorting rules that were tailored to the situation on the ground.

Unlike the intricate waste sorting rules applied in Shanghai, Beijing and other urban frontrunners the county authorities formulated rules based on farmers' habits.

They opted for five categories: burnable, nonburnable, perishable, recyclable, and hazardous.

The deputy head of Tuquan County, Feng Jianzhong, said the rules allowed villagers to continue swapping recyclables for cash and to set aside pollutants for collectors.

Perishable items can be used to create fertilizers, and the remaining waste is sorted based on whether it burns.

Since only nonburnable waste goes to landfills, the new arrangement helps to alleviate the pressure facing such facilities, he said.

To facilitate the rolling out of the rules, local authorities also created catchy ballads for farmers to remember, local publicity official Li Fanghui said.

Garbage sorting is part of a broader effort by the county to improve the hygiene and environment of rural villages as China races to complete the building of a "moderately prosperous society" — known as xiaokang shehui — nationwide.

The county also introduced a reward system to encourage farmers who play by the rules. Residents who keep their doorways clean and comply with the garbage sorting rules will get reward points.

The data will be updated each month and farmers will be able to convert the points to commodities at designated supermarkets at the end of the year.


(Source: China Daily)


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