by He Bolin
BEIJING, Oct. 12 (Xinhuanet) -- China's "Golden Week" holiday (which actually lasted eight days from Sept 30 to Oct 7) once again left the world in awe because of the massive traffic jams on highways, the huge flow of people across the country and, worse, the trash strewn all over in the aftermath.
On the night of Mid-Autumn Festival (Sept 30), tourists who had gathered on a 3-kilometer stretch of a beach in Sanya, Hainan province, to watch the full moon that signifies family reunion, left more than 50 tons of garbage behind. The Palace Museum in Beijing was also full of trash, thanks to the surfeit of visitors during the holiday. Similar scenes have been reported from across the country, especially tourist spots.
The road-toll-free holiday encouraged almost everyone with a car to hit the highways, turning them into long stretches of parking lots with drivers and passengers throwing trash out of their windows at random.
The "Golden Week" holidays are a time for travel, family reunion and relaxation. But some people have turned them into a stressful period for law enforcers and cleaners. The problem can be attributed to lack of awareness of personal and public hygiene among people. This means people's social and health awareness has not kept pace with the country's economic development.
The question that arises is: How can the situation be improved?
Most observers agree that the first step would be to raise people's awareness of hygiene and environmental protection, for which an incentive-and-punishment mechanism has to be put in place.
In the United Kingdom, for example, a person has to pay 48 pounds ($77) to the civic authorities for the disposal of 1 ton of garbage, and the cost will go up by 8 pounds every three years from 2013. Besides, a person can be fined up to 100 pounds for disposing of garbage illegally. As a pilot program, local governments in the UK have installed electronic chips in trash bins to monitor the garbage disposal procedure of 2.6 million families in 68 places.
Such experiences are worth learning from. People will stop dumping garbage wherever and whenever they feel like if they are fined for doing so. And the money collected as garbage disposal fees and fines can make the waste disposal process more efficient.
Garbage recycling and disposal charges are low in China. In Beijing, for example, a family in a community pays about 5 yuan (80 US cents) a month as garbage disposal fees, irrespective of the amount of waste it generates.
Therefore, there is need to not only work out a sound incentive-and-punishment mechanism, but also to implement the existing regulations more strictly. There are only two national regulations on garbage disposal - one for urban garbage in general and the other for urban construction waste - and they are not enough to deal with the problem.
There is need also to strengthen law enforcement on garbage treatment and recycling. Many cities in China once had high hygienic standards, but few of them have been able to maintain that. Two of the principal reasons for that are lack of strong administrative enforcement and lack of public participation.
Trash bins on streets and in households are another area that needs improvement. Germany, for instance, has green or blue bins for waste such as paper and cardboard packaging; yellow bins for plastic food containers, plastic bottles, plastic wrap, plastic bags, aluminum foil, aerosol cans and toothpaste tubes; brown bins for fruit and vegetable peels and leftovers, garden clippings, weeds, foliage and plants, and flowers; and glass containers for glass bottles and jars, and packaging made from glass. Apart from these, old clothes and shoes are regularly collected from curbs by charity organizations that inform residents of the pick-up date in advance, and civic personnel pick up unwanted appliances, old furniture and large household objects three to four times a year on pre-arranged dates. Even if after all this, a person has any more waste left, he/she can dump it in gray bins.
In contrast, China has only two kinds of bins, one for recyclable garbage and the other non-recyclables. Worse, some people care less about whether they are putting the waste in the right bin. Some others even dump trash outside the bins.
Chinese people need to reflect on their actions, and realize that public hygiene and sanitation is as important as personal hygiene and cleanliness. Moreover, awareness alone will not necessarily prompt a person to do the right thing until and unless he/she is willing to do it. Also, the fact that Beijing's streets do not have enough trash bins does not give people the right to use sidewalks, curbs and the base of trees as trash bins.
Awareness of and attitude toward sanitation is a cultural trait, which somehow seems deficient among many of today's Chinese. But can we live with it?
(Source: China Daily)