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Recycling can help the environment
Last Updated(Beijing Time):2007-06-09 09:30

This week, China laid out a national plan to combat climate change, just days ahead of the G8 summit, where President Hu Jintao is discussing environmental policies, among other issues, with other world leaders.

The goals outlined in the plan include energy conservation and efficiency, eliminating air pollutants, making water safe, conserving land, and research on advanced technologies. And these will be accomplished by better public awareness, more recycling, and improved waste disposal among other strategies.

But what remains to be seen is if China's rhetoric will be matched with action.

Environmental policy generally starts at the top and trickles down to the population. But if individual people can do little things now they will make a difference in the environmental situation.

Individual choices, such as recycling, is one way that people can make a contribution to help improve the environment and reduce pollution.

Garbage is sent to landfills where it decomposes and emits methane gas. When garbage is burned carbon dioxide is given off. Both of these gases contribute to air pollution and global warming.

According to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Development and Reform in December 2006, 90 percent of the Beijing's garbage is buried in landfills. Only 2 percent of the garbage is burned and 8 percent is composted.

At that time, the commission launched a plan that by 2010, four large garbage disposal plants would incinerate, compost and bury garbage would be built in each quadrant of the city.

And to reduce the amount of garbage in landfills, recycling is an important and easy thing for people to do.

Recycling in Beijing, though not entirely absent, is hard to recognize. Recycling bins that are marked as such are also stuffed with trash that cannot be recycled.

People litter and throw garbage on the ground as they walk down the road. No one seems surprised as they pass by trash accumulating in piles on street corners.

In North America, people follow a simple "3R" policy: reduce, reuse and recycle.

Reducing means consuming and throwing away less by purchasing longer-lasting goods and looking for products and packaging that can be used many times.

Reusing items involves repairing, donating and selling them. Sometimes this is even better than recycling.

Recycling turns materials that would otherwise be trash into valuable resources. Things that can be recycled include: tin cans, aluminum cans, glass, paper and bottles. And to make it easier for people to sort their garbage, there are usually recycle bins beside trashcans in the United States.

China should have more clearly marked recycling bins and inform the public about what they can recycle. If the process is streamlined, more items will be recycled.

In May 2007, officials at a press conference by the Organizing Committee for the Beijing Olympic Games (BOCOG) said, "We will carry out more economic and educational measures instead of merely administrative means this year to increase awareness around garbage classification."

They explained that waste bins for classified recycling in public places in Beijing are almost empty because people either don't know how to separate the garbage or don't care to dispose of things properly.

Guo Wei, a middle-aged woman said, "The government should add more recycling bins on the street because I have to walk a long distance to dispose of my trash." She added that the government should also have more training for the recycling staff so that they would know about the different categories of plastic and paper and sort them out properly instead of processing them altogether.

Some foreign students in Beijing said they don't see the Chinese recycling things as much as they do in the US. But a local student said, "I would recycle more if there were enough facilities."

While there is some public awareness about recycling, there should be more. And the best place to start is in schools. If children would get more involved earlier in their lives, they could become more environmentally friendly as they get older.

Environmental resources should be made available in local communities so that people can understand the many benefits of recycling such as reducing pollution, saving energy and keeping waste of out landfills. (Tabitha Messick ) 
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