A waitress in a small restaurant in Songjiang district of Shanghai was fined on Monday, for something that might seem trivial — throwing tissue paper splattered with food waste in a bin.
Though it seemed petty for many, the act, in fact, violates a new law that took effect in Shanghai on Monday, requiring every individual and institution to sort their trash into different bins. Locals are now required to split trash between four categories: food waste, residual waste, hazardous waste and recyclables.
The waitress was fined 50 yuan ($7) by an urban patrol officer after she refused to correct her error, saying she was too busy to sort the trash. While not a huge amount of money, it is the first time a person has been fined for not sorting trash in Shanghai.
According to the new law, a maximum 200 yuan fine can be imposed on individuals who do not comply, and for errant companies and institutions, the fine can hit 5,000 to 50,000 yuan.
Sales of trash cans on e-commerce portal Taobao also boomed before the regulation took effect. Containers that can store dry waste, wet waste and recyclable waste all-in-one sold like hot cakes. Searches of the key words "garbage sorting containers" went up by 3,000 percent year-on-year in June.
Shanghai is not fighting alone in the battle against trash disposal, as trash sorting has been accelerated nationwide, according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.
The country plans to have 46 major Chinese cities, including Beijing and Guangzhou, set up a basic system to classify and dispose of their household garbage by 2020, and by 2025, cities at the prefecture level and above should have the system in place, the ministry said.