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China’s Zero Waste Problem

China’s Zero Waste Problem

13 April 2021
Author: Jasmine Waters

Across the world, the need to shift our collective focus to greener practices is becoming extremely apparent. Coupled with the pandemic crisis, the tipping point of excess waste could reach a new high, as an increase of plastic products is affecting industries as well as the general consumer base. In China, the trickle-down of PPE and health measures is having a direct impact on the way businesses function and are received. What is happening, and what are Chinese businesses doing about it?

What’s happening in China? 

Over the last year, it’s been common behaviour for consumers to pick up deliveries in a surgical mask and latex gloves, or disposing of mass Styrofoam packages, hand wipes and delivery bags. For each order across multiple industries, the side effect has been an accumulation of waste generated by the country’s safety measures. It’s thought that the public will eventually be weaned off of current PPE usage, although there will be a level of custom and demand left over thanks to the level of packaging provided by shops. The question now is at what point the environmental waste-driven crisis will come to the forefront of the public’s minds.

What can be done to stop the impact?

The Chinese government responded quickly with their lockdown measures, which online retailers have had to quickly adapt to. In the face of record product demand, brands have had to implement increased packaging, disposable PPE and temperature readings as mandatory. A study concluded that China was disposing almost 1 million face masks a day, as well as 333 tons of excess waste. However, there now seems to be a new level of hope emerging in post-pandemic life. With silver linings of limited air pollution and domestic vaccines, the fight against industry waste could well return to its former glory. Businesses are starting to amplify the green message through grassroots organisations, as well as introducing more pro-recycling measures. As consumers begin to search for zero-waste lifestyle alternatives, the Government has announced a complete ban on plastic bags in shops in cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, while aiming to meet a 30% reduction in plastic container usage by 2025. Markets encourage consumers to bring their own packaging, highlighting that the Chinese general consumer is willing to make quick, long-lasting changes. There is now a seemingly unstoppable trend of consumption, so brands will need to look to make a united effort towards zero-waste initiatives in order to begin to undo the COVID-19 damage.

Image source: https://www.pexels.com/@nadezhda-diskant-4165924

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