In a residential community in Beijing's northern suburbs, Cui Zhanxia was busy checking garbage bags before residents put them into different bins.
Cui is one of the community workers who help with garbage sorting after Beijing began to implement the mandatory practice on May 1.
"Waste sorting is not difficult. It should be a normal part of people's lifestyles," said Cui. "Residents have recently paid much more attention to garbage sorting. Our efforts are not in vain."
Garbage sorting has become a hot topic in China. The Chinese leadership underlined efforts to cultivate the habit of garbage classification to improve the living environment and contribute to green and sustainable development.
A total of 237 Chinese cities have started to practice garbage sorting, data from the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development showed in January. Of 46 large cities, 30 have issued regulations on the classification of household garbage.
"It is a good way to purify the environment. We are delighted to make ecological progress," Cui said.
The appropriate classification of domestic kitchen garbage is one of the challenges to promote waste sorting. In 2019, Beijing produced more than 10.11 million tonnes of residential waste, including 194,900 tonnes from household kitchens.
Since May, the daily average amount of sorted domestic kitchen waste in the city has reached 740 tonnes, up 159 percent month on month and a year-on-year increase of 37 percent, according to the Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Management.
Before Beijing introduced the mandatory practice, the Lujiashan waste treatment plant in suburban Mentougou District processed about 100 tonnes of domestic kitchen waste every day, but the daily disposal volume has increased by half since late May.
"Garbage classification has brought a rather positive effect," said Zhao Xiaodong, deputy general manager of Beijing Shougang Ecological Technology Co., Ltd., which runs the plant.
Meanwhile, Beijing law enforcement officers have investigated more than 500 residential compounds since May and most of the communities were found to have conducted promotion of garbage sorting.
"Recently, there has been an obvious increase in the number of people willing to learn about and take part in garbage sorting," said a garbage classification volunteer surnamed Chen in a residential community in Haidian District.
Amid the COVID-19 epidemic, Beijing shifted its focus to online channels including livestreaming sessions and online classes to popularize garbage sorting knowledge among residents.
The urban management commission has also launched a "Beijing garbage sorting" program on social media platform WeChat. Smartphone users can input the name of a waste item or upload a photo of it on the program to inquire which category it should be classified into.
"Waste management is the responsibility of the whole society. Everyone is obligated to play a role," said a cleaner in Haidian District surnamed Guo.
Beijing has launched a three-month law enforcement campaign since May to guide and monitor household garbage sorting.
About 64,500 neighborhoods, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, supermarkets and scenic spots were inspected last month and more than 9,900 were found to have not strictly followed the garbage sorting regulations.
Violations mainly included failing to install garbage bins for the four types of classified waste and transporting mixed refuse.
Although garbage classification is accelerating in China, the practice is still in its initial stage and has yet to be widely adopted by the whole society, according to Liu Jianguo, a professor with the School of Environment, Tsinghua University.
"We need to take more specific measures to strengthen people's awareness and spur them to take the initiative," said Sun Xinjun, director of the Beijing Municipal Commission of Urban Management.