Chinese cities began piloting voluntary waste sorting systems (垃圾分类试点) in the 1990s. In 2000, the former Ministry of Construction announced the first eight "pilot cities for voluntary domestic garbage separation", including Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Guilin, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Xiamen. Despite many attempts, these eight cities failed to achieve the desired results over the past two decades. In July 2019, Shanghai then took the lead in making waste classification mandatory across the city, which has sparked heated discussions. Waste separation and classification has also become a very popular research topic as there are a lot of problems and controversies in the nexus of policy and practice. Based on existing research and news coverage, this paper reviews old and new viewpoints and debates surrounding China's approach to urban waste classification with regard to three main aspects: the overall management system, the question of public engagement, and the experience of introducing mandatory implementation in Shanghai.
Date of Publication
2020 April 23
Heinrich Boell Stiftung Beijing Office
Number of Pages
Language of publication