Translated for you: delivery apps drown China in plastic
Translated for you: delivery apps drown China in plastic
China is literally drowning in a sea of plastic and the cause is food delivery apps, which are increasingly widespread and convenient: but at what cost?
The original article “Food delivery apps are drowning China in plastic” appears in the New York Times. An article denouncing the increase in plastic pollution due to applications dedicated to food delivery: we have translated it for you.
The noodles and barbecue arrive within 30 minutes, but the boxes they come in still hang around hundreds of years later. There’s a good chance that the longest-lasting legacy of China ‘s internet boom won’t be glass-and-steel office complexes or luxury apartments for the tech elite. It will be plastic . The astronomical growth of China’s home delivery apps is flooding the country with take away boxes, cutlery and plastic bags. And the country’s fragmented waste recycling system can’t manage to dispose of everything. Most of this plastic ends up discarded, buried or burned with the rest of the garbage, according to researchers and recyclers.
Scientists estimate that the home delivery sector was responsible for 1.6 million tonnes of waste in 2017 , at least nine times more than just two years earlier. In total, 1.2 million tons of plastic containers, 175,000 tons of disposable sticks, 164,000 tons of plastic bags and 44,000 tons of plastic spoons add up. Taken together they amount to more than the residential and commercial garbage of all types disposed of each year by the city of Philadelphia, which in 2018 discarded an estimated total of 2 million tons.
In China, people generate less plastic waste per capita than Americans. But researchers estimate that nearly three-quarters of China’s plastic waste ends up in poorly managed landfills or outdoors, where it is more likely to reach the sea .recycling take away containers requires that they be washed firstMore plastic enters the waters of the world’s oceans from China than from any other country. And in water, plastic takes centuries to disintegrate. Those involved in recycling waste in China try to recover some of this plastic and transform it into a form that can be used by the country’s factories. China recycles nearly a quarter of its plastic, government statistics say, compared to less than 10 percent in the United States. In China, however, take away containers do not end up among the things to be recycled . They should be washed first. And they weigh so little that those who rummage through the waste must accumulate large quantities in order to be able to resell them to those who recycle. “ Half a day’s work for a few pennies. It’s not worth itSays Ren Yong, a 40-year-old street sweeper who works in an office building complex in central Shanghai.
For many overworked or simply lazy people in urban China, the two leading home delivery platforms, Meituan and Ele.me are replacing home cooking and eating out as the preferred methods of obtaining nourishment. Delivery doesn’t cost much and the apps offer generous discounts ,apps are replacing home cookingto the point that it now seems normal to order a cup of coffee at home. But Yuan Ruqian knows this is not the case. Yet she also gave in. Like that time she was craving ice cream and a shop she had opened near her home seemed too far to reach anyway. Or every time he orders food to take away for lunch, as happens most days. When we asked her about how much garbage she generates, Miss Yuan, 27, who works in the world of high finance in Shanghai, told us that laziness is the root of all evil.
Daily life has undergone a sudden transformation. Meituan said it delivered 6.4 billion orders in 2018 , a 60 percent increase from the previous year, for a total value of about $ 42 billion, which brings the average cost of orders to about $ 6.50 – a sum just right for a decent meal in a big Chinese city. Ele.me – the name means “ Are you hungry? “And is pronounced” Ulumu”- did not disclose anything. But according to analysts at iResearch, in 2018 all the apps together delivered orders for a total of 70 billion dollars. For comparison, food deliveries generated online in the United States in 2019 are expected to amount to $ 19 billion, according to Satista. Uber said Uber Eats generated orders totaling $ 7.9 billion worldwide last year. GrubHub reported sales of $ 5.1 billion and 159 million orders in 2018, bringing the average order to $ 32.
In the rest of the world, the convenience of these services brings with it costs that can be easy to overlook, such as various labor disputes, or roads that become more dangerous due to the large traffic generated by food couriers whizzing by at full speed on the their scooters. And plastic waste is equally ignored, even when it is generated and then mishandled on such a massive scale. A quarter of all plastic that is dumped outdoors in the world comes from China. Scientists estimate that the Yangtze River dumped 367,000 tons of plastic into the sea in 2015, more than any other river in the world, twice as much as that discharged from the Ganges in India and Bangladesh. China also has the third and fourth most polluted rivers in the world.
Home delivery apps indirectly encourage restaurateurs to use more plastic , and those in China who do business through Meituan and Ele.me say they depend so much on user ratings that they prefer to use heavier containers and an extra layer of plastic to a potential bad review because some food spilled out. ” Meituan is seriously committed to reducing the environmental impact of food delivered at home ,” the company said, alluding to a number of initiatives undertaken, such as allowing users not to request disposable tableware. Ele.me, on the other hand, a subsidiary of the Asian e-commerce titan Alibaba, did not comment.
This universal deluge of garbage wouldn’t be such a big problem if China weren’t in the midst of a monumental, albeit misdirected, effort to get its waste recycling system back on track, which for a long time hasn’t been in the country. was regulated, and was motivated, rather than by ecological virtues, by the opportunity to extract economic resources from waste. The government now wants a recycling industry that doesn’t ruin the environment or make those who work there sick. But the transition isn’t going smoothly .
China recently banned the import of many types of waste into the country in the hope that recyclers would focus on domestic garbage. But this measure killed what was a profitable business for the industry,American cities were left without landfills for plasticand left American cities without landfills for their plastics and paper, to the point where some of them had to stop their recycling programs. However, other policies may be responsible for the failure to collect recycled materials from Chinese homes and offices. In Beijing, many of those who rummage through the garbage have clashed with an aggressive government campaign aimed at ” improving the quality of the city’s population.”, A euphemism that indicates a maneuver aimed at driving out immigrant workers from the countryside. To clean up the stinking air in Beijing, the government has tightened its grip on polluting small businesses in the capital region. The inspectors closed hundreds of small workshops that processed and cleaned plastic waste.
But not everyone mourns the lack of it. For years , Mao Da , an environmental researcher, studied the plastics industry in Wen’an County near Beijing and said workers rummaged through medical and food waste with their bare hands, and the non-recyclable material was buried. inside it was located in the countryside. “This is a catastrophe for the environment and public health ,” said Mao. But until now, these measures have not been followed by the appearance of recycling companies to fill the created void. The whole sector seems to have fallen into limbo. “ There are fewer people collecting garbage, fewer people carrying it and even fewer people processing it ,” says Chen Liwen, founder of Zero Waste Villages ., a nonprofit that promotes recycling in rural China. ” And so the recycling rate fell “.
In Chifeng, a small town northeast of Beijing, Zhang Jialin is taking stock of his recycling business. For years, together with his wife, he bought plastic waste and reduced it to small particles. But today the local authorities have increased the number of checks and decided to demolish the street where the spouses live. He and other recyclers believe the reason lies in the unsightlyness of their workshops. The Chifeng administration refused to comment. ” What I do is protect the environment ,” said 45-year-old singor Zhang. “I don’t leave rubbish scattered everywhere, I collect it. I prepare them for recycling. I work and clean them. Why, then, did the authorities target me as if I were the one harming the environment? That’s what I don’t understand ”.