The explosion of food delivery in China and corresponding growth of single-use plastic containers, cups and spoons, have seen a massive increase in plastic waste in the country, much of which is considered “low-value”, and at risk of leaking into the environment.
In the city of Suzhou, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is addressing this through an initiative that diverts these plastics to one of more than 300 newly-upgraded and installed collection points – and away from the Yangtze basin, on which the city sits.
Working with materials recovery facility operator SuZaiTou (SZT) under Project JingSu – Creating Value from Plastic Waste along the Yangtze, GIZ has set up more than 117 drop-off points in three Suzhou districts earmarked for their prevalent use of single-use food and beverage containers (FaBCs). A further 201 collection points have been set up in the city’s primary and junior middle schools.
The Alliance-funded initiative adds to efforts under China’s Plastic Pollution Control Action Plan, which is aimed at substantially reducing plastic waste by 2025.
The initiative brings together local authorities, businesses, educational institutions, NGOs and residents to implement a sustainable system for managing FaBCs. This includes developing strategies and building capacity at city level to monitor, collect, sort and recycle low-value plastic waste; raising awareness among residents; using data-driven tracking platforms to increase traceability and recyclability; and exploring innovative business models and processing solutions for low-value plastics.
By integrating a collection and sorting system for FaBCs into the city’s waste management in Suzhou, it also increases the scope of what is considered recyclable.
Collection began in stages from June 2022, and despite interruptions arising from COVID-19 restrictions late that year, the initiative resulted in the collection of 473 tonnes of FaBCs by February 2023.