Around China: Waste classification "godfather" responds to China's junk dilemma

KUNMING, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- The city of Kunming, capital of southwest China's Yunnan Province, is setting up a garbage classification network to make the most of the city's trash.

According to the project plan, 800 recycling stations will be set up to collect household waste and 1,000 new garbage trucks will be put into use.

The project's initiator, Zhang Fengyi, known as the "godfather" of garbage classification in the city, said one of the project's purposes is to improve household garbage classification for collection, which has long been a headache for Chinese cities.

Like Kunming, many big cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, established garbage classification systems in 2000. Thirteen years later, however, the initiative has yet to be effective.

"Without garbage classification, disposal methods such as bio-degeneration or landfills are only empty words," said Zhang.

He said that by carrying out the project with the government's help, he hopes the city can gradually set up a system clarifying the responsibilities of the government, the public and companies.

A China Youth Daily report cited a government survey in July showing that more than one-third of the country's cities are besieged by garbage, with rubbish taking up 50,000 hectares of land.

Insufficient recycling has been blamed as a major reason behind the growing garbage surrounding cities in the rapidly urbanizing country, according to the report.

Most of the residents just see the additional receptacles for different kinds of waste as nothing more than extra trash bins, said local government officials.

Even if residents dump waste into separate trash bins, the garbage trucks usually mix garbage from different trash bins together when collecting it, said Zhang.

He added that he hopes the project will change the situation.

"The city needs to run a network that includes garbage classification, collection, disposal and recycling methods, which is what I'm striving for now," said Zhang.

As a well-known businessman in his community, the 43-year-old Zhang has many roles: a grassroots recycling campaigner, a laid-off worker who created wealth with his bare hands, and a diligent volunteer.

He started a company 11 years ago to profit from the collection and classification of garbage, and he has been successful.

Now he wants to make life better for his fellow Kunming residents, rather than just making his life more comfortable.

"People should be educated and trained on green consumption and garbage treatment," he said.

With help from the city management bureau, Zhang and his employees have been visiting primary schools to teach children to sort garbage that is recyclable, non-recyclable and hazardous.

In Longjie Primary School, putting different items, such as batteries, plastic products and paper, into one of a dozen bins has become a form of entertainment for students.

"Students have greater environmental protection awareness now, and many go back home and teach their parents," said Yang Wenshui, the headmaster.

The trash bins, which cost 300 yuan (49.32 U.S. dollars) each, were offered by Zhang's company to schools for free.

However, the city's garbage sorting network is far from fully established.

Only 70 out of the planned 800 stations had been set up by the end of November.

"Garbage collection and recycling require large amounts of investment, but yield returns rather slowly. I hope local government can put forward more funds to build related facilities, such as bio-degeneration centers and garbage incinerators," said Zhang.