In Japan, and several other countries, household trash needs to be separated into various categories and those categories of trash are put outside for collection on predetermined days. Common categories may be metals, plastics, glass, combustible, noncombustible, etc. The main reason for this is to increase the amount of recycling and decrease the amount of trash that ends up in landfills.

Here in Qingdao though, all trash can be thrown out together on any day of the week. That makes life much simpler for the average household, who probably wouldn’t separate it anyway, and means that the trash is collected daily.

But, what about recycling? How can glass bottles, metal cans, plastic containers, paper, etc. be efficiently recycled if they are not separated before being collected? Surely this leads to much more usable resources ending up wasted in landfills?

No, not here in Qingdao. There are many people whose job it is to collect a certain type of resource (aka trash). I’ve already explained to you about how I dispose of my empty beer bottles. There are also people that only collect plastic bottles, metal objects, paper, etc. Sometimes people will call them to collect those items, but a majority of their work consists of going through the public trash cans that can be found on most residential streets.

I can go out at 6:00pm in the evening and walk past dozens of trash cans overflowing with all manner of trash, and often with several plastic bags of trash surrounding them as the trash cans were already full. However, when I walk home at 11:00pm, those trash cans are near to empty; they are generally left with only those items that are of no value, can’t be recycled, and would end up in the landfill anyway.

At first, the site of people digging through the trash collecting plastic bottles seemed degrading and sad. However, on reflection, it is just society’s way of separating the trash, increasing recycling, and giving many people jobs. It doesn’t seem so bad after all.