China’s metropolises, such as Beijing and Shanghai, had become cleaner in recent decades. Corners, where trash lied around for weeks, had almost completely disappeared from the inner city landscape. Until the latest round of Covid curfews. During the lockdowns, floods of trash not only strain the sometimes overwhelmed waste disposal system, but also jeopardize the government’s recycling goals.
Back in April, some 373 million people in 45 Chinese metropolitan areas were in or partially affected by the lockdown, according to economists at Japanese securities firm Nomura. Shanghai, a metropolis of 25 million people, is still stuck in lockdown after two months. Because of the restrictions, all those people have ordered more online. Accordingly, from food to diapers, much more packaging was used than usual, partly because there is still a persistent misconception that the virus can also be transmitted via surfaces (China.Table reported). Many Chinese believe that more packaging equals more hygiene, which is why deliveries are sometimes double- and triple-wrapped in plastic bags. That’s not rational, but pandemic control isn’t always rational either.
In Shanghai alone, for example, more than 3,300 tons of household waste were generated every day during the lockdown. As recently as February, before the lockdown, just 73 tons of household waste were generated daily, according to the state-run People’s Daily newspaper. That’s an increase by a factor of 44. No waste infrastructure in the world could easily handle that.
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