Food Waste Management: A MASSIVE Growth Opportunity in China

With China’s growing number of urban consumers, more and more pressure is being placed on the system to account for the outputs of cities, particularly on its food systems. One of the growing concerns is the issue of managing the sizeable amount of food waste that is coming from restaurants, canteens, and households. It is a concern that is increasingly strained by the poor waste management pr…

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Asia Promises To Tackle Ocean Plastic

Plastic, it is one of the most widely used materials in the economy, and as we are coming to understand through various studies, it is quickly becoming one of the greatest challenges that need to be addressed.  Many use cases for plastics are unrivaled in its properties and price. It is everywhere that we look and people continue to consume and make, from large uses to the small consumables th…

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Reducing China’s Food Packaging Waste through Innovation

As the largest city in China, Shanghai has an important role in innovating and contributing to a global solution to the problem of waste. With over 24 million people living in Shanghai, materials sustainability, particularly that of plastics, is a significant issue. Waimai or food delivery, which is extremely common in Shanghai, creates large amounts of waste due to the plastic containers, bags, a…

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Dreams of a Sustainable Career, Design, and Waste | #AskTheCollective 013

In this episode of #AsktheCollective, I answer questions from university students about following their sustainable dreams, design, and waste. As always, we hope you find these questions and answers useful, gain some new insights, and possibly help catalyze you to take your next step! #Timestamps 00:34 -  I want to get into sustainable design, but my professors say that is impractical a…

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Recycled Waste in Shanghai: Where it goes

For our regular readers, you will know that we have been spending last several months looking deep into how waste is managed in China, with a specific focus on how recycled waste is collected, sorted, and processed in Shanghai. This is driven in part by the belief that Shanghai has, and will, serve as a model for city development in China going forward. It is a city that not only has experience…

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Waste in Shanghai: Rising Pressures for the Informal System

China's waste management system is feeling the heat. Over the past few months, scandals from illegal dumping to capacity reaches of major landfills have exposed the complexities of Shanghai’s waste stream – and the challenges that exist in controlling its management. These issues are not unique to Shanghai – they represent broader trends and issues of consumption growth in many of China’s ci…

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Informal Waste Collection in China: A People-Powered Economy

China's waste collection and management system has recently captured public attention. Much of that attention has focused on negative incidents – such as dumping scandals in Shanghai and Wuxi – or uncertainty about the future of waste treatment, with expected landfill closures in Shanghai for 2017. But how much do you really know about waste beyond the headlines? Collective's work on waste i…

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Supply Chain Sustainability: The Bestway to Put Theory Into Practice

SUSTAINABILITY: THEORY VS. REALITY When discussing sustainable business, ideas that make "big-picture" environmental sense on paper may or may not translate well into day-to-day practice. What may seem more efficient in the long-term is not always conducive to the main focus of business, the bottom line – particularly when talking about supply chain actors and retailers. This is why it's so…

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Why a Chinese Government Lawsuit is an Opportunity for Sustainability

China has some of the largest and fastest-growing megacities in the world. And with 100 million more people moving to those cities by 2020, China will have to tackle critical urbanization issues years, even decades ahead of everyone else. One area that doesn't receive nearly enough attention is waste management. Through our ongoing research on waste in China, we've studied the realities of Shan…

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China’s Landfills Are Closing: Where Will The Waste Go?

In China, waste and waste management have attracted national concern. From environmental issues like toxic chemicals in sea water, to issues affecting urban centers – like Beijing's burdened landfills – waste has become a central part of public discourse. With this in mind, we thought we'd share insights from our past and recent work on waste in Shanghai, and shed light on major changes to waste m…

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Ocean Plastic & China’s Affluence, Markets for Sustainability & Leadership | #AskTheCollective 002

As we wrap up the start of February, we are proud to present Episode 002 of the #AskTheCollective video series. This episode features topics ranging from ocean plastic and the influence of affluence in China, to the link between sustainability and a market-driven economy. Many thanks to askers: Wade Sewell, allaways coffee, and Mario Van Der Meulen. As always, we hope you find these questions a…

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[NEW WEBSERIES] #AskTheCollective: Episode 001

As a way to engage with you, our audience, we are happy to announce that Episode 001 of the #AskTheCollective video series is now live! This episode features topics ranging from food waste in China to the reality of China's pledge to become an "ecological civilization". Special thanks to our askers: Travis Opocensky, Hunter Lovins, John Dennis Liu, Ariel Muller, and Rob Watson. #AskTheCollectiv…

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Shanghai Waste Scandal: 100 Tons Dumped Illegally

Earlier this week, Shanghai’s municipal government uncovered 100 tons of waste dumped illegally near Chongming Island. Pictures of the scandal garnered serious attention on Weibo and included biohazards, household waste, and plastics in one of Shanghai’s four reservoirs. Investigators from Chongming’s Water Source Management department have found no signs of serious contamination, but they have te…

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Action Over Regulation: The Economics of China’s Recycled Paper & Cardboard

In a prior article in our ongoing series of waste management in China, we pointed out that rebranding waste as a resource can provide an alternative lens when discussing waste. As a valued resource, recycled paper and cardboard in China offer a unique case of how global market mechanisms and government regulation impact the role of waste in society. From foreign imports to sharp spikes in domes…

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Taking on Takeaway Waste: The Tupperware Challenge

As consumers have increasingly relied on the conveinence of takeout for our meals, an exploential growth of plastic waste  has followed. In China alone, over five million delivery orders per day are placed on Eli.me, the country's most popular online food delivery startup. However, this comes at a time when it is being shown that  only 40% of plastic waste makes it into collection systems in several Asian countries, including China, with a significant portion of this waste ending up in landfills or waterways. It is a challenge that can only be expected to grow, so in lieu of changes in regulation or materials, we asked ourselves: Is there a way to limit personal, daily consumption of lunchtime plastic waste? AN EXPERIMENT: TAKING ON TAKEAWAY Collective Responsibility believes that you, as a consumer, hold the power to limit plastic waste. There are many small ways to limit plastic and takeaway waste in China that can really stack up when brought to scale in the most populated nation on the planet. One is to start using your own reusable takeaway boxes, water bottles, and thermoses when ordering takeaway. You'll decrease your personal plastic consumption, and depending on the establishment, you might even save some coin by not paying for that extra bag or box. We practice what we preach, too. Collective challenges our employees to use personal lunch boxes, rather than plastic takeaway packaging as part of our lunchtime routine. But because we're researchers, we took this challenge one step further: an experiment, a test in the real world. Collective Responsibility visited over 20 takeaway restaurants in the Shanghai area, interviewing employees from the smallest mom-and-pop dumpling stand to international chain restaurants, in order to get the bigger picture on lunchtime plastic waste. At each store, Collective Responsibility identified whether or not the stores allowed takeaway in personal Tupperware. Here are our results! CHINESE-STYLE RESTAURANTS Chinese restaurants already have a strong culture of takeaway service. Many of the employees at the restaurants were unsurprised by the request to use personal lunch boxes. In fact, one customer at a 麻辣烫 restaurant (málàtàng, "hot pot") said she frequently brought her own bowl in order to get a larger proportion of food! Although this may not be a sustainability incentive, it shows that many restaurant policies and infrastructure are conducive to encouraging sustainability initiatives in takeaway culture. Food Collective was able to use personal lunch boxes in each of the Chinese establishments visited. These include chain restaurants, such as 吉祥馄饨 (Jíxiáng Húntún, "Lucky Wonton") and 桂林米粉 (Guìlín Mǐfěn, "Guilin Rice Noodles"), as well as smaller food stands. Beverages In our investigation, we were unable to use a personal thermos or takeaway cups at bubble tea drink stands, such as Daska Tea and Coco. This was due to a specific lid that the company seals their drinks in, which cannot be placed in a thermos. Western-style RESTAURANTS Collective Responsibility anticipated more resistance to personal takeaway from Western-style restaurants, due to potential international regulations or restrictions. However, each Western-style restaurant we visited allowed the use of personal Tupperware as well, exceeding our expectations. Food Collective Responsibility visited ten western restaurants, including Wagas, Subway, KFC, Papa John's, and Carl's Jr. Each restaurant allowed takeaway in personal lunch boxes; however, there were limitations due to the style and size of the food. Whereas meals like rice or noodles from the Chinese style establishments can be spooned and spread into most boxes, you might need to have a little more forethought when it comes to Western food. For example, a good box should be able to accommodate the size of a pizza slice, salad, fries, and so on. Trying to cram KFC's family bucket of wings into a box the size of your hand? You might want to rethink that. Just some friendly advice. Beverages Pacific Coffee, Starbucks, and Zoo Coffee each allowed drink takeaway in personal cups. In fact, Starbucks has a policy that requires employees to allow takeaway in personal containers. These stores also provide porcelain cups, which are a great sit-in option. CONCLUSIONS AND BARRIERS OF CONSUMER BEHAVIOR We've found that local and national eateries are generally fair game for the Tupperware Challenge. And when it comes to getting your fried chicken fix or that desperate pizza slice, using Tupperware boxes is definitely feasible, but might take some planning.  With some exceptions, bringing your own containers for food and drink takeaway is a good strategy for not only decreasing your plastic waste consumption but also saving some money – and if you're lucky, you might even get a little more bang for your buck. Give it a try, and get creative! Let us know about your outcomes for the Tupperware Challenge at your favorite lunchtime spot. We'd love to compare notes. As the saying goes, "old habits die hard." We understand; the forethought and planning needed to bring personal takeaway box and cup are not always convenient. In many ways, the Tupperware Challenge encourages a small lifestyle change. And while Collective Responsibility invites you to challenge yourself to take the extra initiative to bring one’s own lunch boxes every once in awhile, we do recognize that larger industry solutions and government solutions are also necessary for managing plastic waste in China. Hopefully, making this small personal step towards decreasing consumption, multiplied across the millions of consumers using takeaway and order-in every day, can get some momentum going in the right direction.

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