And who are the people dealing with the mountains of trash in China’s cities? And why is everyone in Shanghai suddenly talking about trash? As China’s wealth grows, so has its trash. In 2017, it generated over 200 million tons of garbage. That’s enough to cover two Manhattans in over 6 feet of trash. But some young people are trying to change that. I’m on my way to the outskirts of Beijing to meet one of the few zero-waste activists in China. Elsa Tang has lived a zero-waste lifestyle for nearly three years now. Elsa can now fit two weeks of trash into this tiny jar. And she’s written a guide on how to go zero-waste in 21 days. She also runs a nationwide group that promotes green living. But before we go deeper into Elsa’s story, let’s rewind a bit to understand why it’s so hard to go zero-waste in modern Chinese society. One of the hottest phrases in China right now is which literally means, Life in China can be so convenient that you can buy virtually anything with your phone. Groceries can arrive at your door in 30 minutes. And food delivery is all the rage now. I just ordered food online using an app. Food delivery is a big part of people’s lives here, even though it’s super convenient, there is also a lot of waste that comes with one single delivery. I ordered some wonton, and look at this, I get the soup separately in this package. Here are the wontons, in a plastic bowl with a plastic lid. I got my utensils, again, wrapped in plastic. This is some flavoring. And I even get a tiny little bag of garlic and herbs inside a tiny little disposable plastic bag. It’s very, very convenient, I wouldn’t lie. I get all of this in half an hour. I don’t have to touch the kitchen, but there is so much waste generated. Packaging waste specifically from food delivery jumped more than seven times in just two years, from 200,000 tons in 2015 to 1.5 million tons in 2017. They’re usually thrown away together with other household garbage. And most of that waste is not recycled. About 60% goes to landfills and 30% to incinerators. Behind me is a typical trash collection point at a village. As you can see, nothing is sorted here. Plastic, paper, everything is lumped together. And to be honest, it stinks. But China is waging a war on waste. Last year, it began cutting foreign waste imports. By next year, it hopes to stop accepting other countries’ trash completely. The government wants to focus on domestic garbage and is now forcing people to recycle. The goal is to enforce mandatory waste sorting in 46 cities by the end of next year and nationwide by 2025. Recycling as a concept is still new in China, There are between three to five million people who scavenge for waste in cities. But life is hard for them. Mr. Wang here says he only gets 1 cent for selling 1 pound of plastic, and even less for cardboard. Cao Chengjian has been working here for six months sorting trash. Cao is a pro, but for the rest of Shanghai, the new trash sorting and recycling system can be a headache. Instead of the usual paper, plastic, and glass, Shanghai separates trash into: If you put garbage in the wrong bin, you can get fined up to $30. The system is so unintuitive that designers like Momo have created games to educate people on the new system. When we tried to sort Momo’s real waste, we also had some questions. Dry waste, right? Really? They can be recycled? Do you want to go zero-waste? In fact, by taking baby steps like ordering less food delivery, Momo has already achieved some of the tasks that Elsa lists in her 21-day guide to a zero-waste life. Next up. We’re taking you for a ride. Join us to find out, what’s it like to be a food delivery man in China. Stay tuned and don’t forget to subscribe to Goldthread.