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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Opinion
Deluging packaging waste must be addressed
    2017-November-27  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

Wu Guangqiang

jw368@163.com

EVERY coin has its two sides. Nothing is truer than this saying when we speak of the astronomical volume of transaction during Alibaba’s 2017 Singles Day and China’s booming online shopping and food delivery services. While having everything delivered right to the doorstep makes life easier and the economy more robust, huge amounts of packaging waste is generated every day, adding to the country’s environmental woes.

The very mention of the figures related to the online shopping frenzy is daunting enough to make us gasp! As China’s State Post Bureau estimates, over 1.5 billion packages will have to be delivered nationwide after Singles Day sales. If we linked the packages end-to-end, the length would be that of 7.5 equators.

Today in China, more than 1.3 billion people regularly shop online, producing a total of 29.7 billion delivery parcels last year, consuming 2.96 billion woven plastic bags, 8.6 billion plastic bags, 9.9 billion cardboard boxes and 17 billion meters of adhesive tape, with a total weight of 4 million tons, said Zhu Lei, deputy head of the Qingdao Research Center of the Beijing Institute of Graphic Communication.

Another major waste producer is online catering and delivery services. China has seen a 57 percent annual growth in the take-out market over the last five years, with the total sales up from 21.6 billion yuan (US$3.28 billion) in 2011 to 166.4 billion yuan in 2016.

Again, the cost for satisfying our appetites is the mounting packaging garbage. Based on data from China’s top three online catering platforms, Ele.me, Meituan and Baidu, a total of 93.4 billion meals were ordered online in 2016, up 22.5 percent from 2015, with about 25.6 million orders daily, generating a huge amount of waste made of 20 million plastic bags, 60 million lunch boxes and 26 million pairs of one-off chopsticks daily.

Given the fact that it takes at least 200 years for nondegradable plastic bags and 400 years for nondegradable plastic lunch boxes to decompose, such obnoxious waste poses a permanent threat to the earth and human beings.

The threat is still increasing as China’s online shopping and catering are continuing to expand quickly. Forty billion parcels will be delivered and more than 20 billion meals are expected to be ordered online this year, according to a recent industry forecast.

Unfortunately, while we are highly efficient in producing waste, we are incapable of disposing of it, to say nothing of eliminating the threat.

Currently, the only thing that we seem to be able to do is dump the garbage in landfills or burn it in incinerators. An endless supply of waste is glutting all the landfills around the country. A third of the nation’s cities are besieged by garbage and a quarter of them are running out of sites suitable for disposal.

Environmentalists are also worried about the worsening pollution. In September, an environmental volunteer group in Chongqing sued some companies for causing the waste of resources and damaging the environment, including the top three take-out companies and some packaging material providers.

To be honest, it is an impossible mission to greatly reduce or eliminate packaging waste without the State’s intervention. The government should take legal, executive and economic measures to tackle the issue.

The prospect that China will see 80 billion delivery parcels by 2020 makes the legislation on express industry and the disposal of packaging waste even more urgent.

A guideline document issued by 10 ministries proposes that by 2020 biodegradable packaging materials account for 50 percent of the total materials and a recycling system be set up to treat the materials.

Many express companies have pitched in by adopting reusable containers without adhesive taps.

The fundamental solution is the development and adoption of biodegradable packaging materials. The task requires national efforts, so the State should mobilize community resources to participate in research, production and adoption of the new materials.

If we were to use half of our wisdom used during production towards reducing waste, we would certainly succeed.

(The author is an English tutor and freelance writer.)

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Shenzhen Daily E-mail:szdaily@szszd.com.cn