After eight weeks in Shanghai, I’ve accumulated a lot of things: notebooks, clothes, souvenirs. But now that it’s time to go, I have to make some decisions and start cleaning out the room that’s been home since May. Unfortunately, that also means adding to the trash heap and wasteful attitude of Shanghai.
I’ve been to Los Angeles and New York City, and I got to school in Boston— I know cities aren’t clean. But Shanghai is on another level. I’ve noticed people have a complete disregard for their environment, throwing trash onto the street, over fences, into parks, stuffing it into empty flower pots, and more when a trash can is only a few feet away. Recycling, as far as I can tell, doesn’t exist despite the bins with labeled with the triangle. It all piles up on the side of the street and stays for a while until the garbage disposal picks (most) of it up. In summer’s full heat and muggy humidity, walking down the street often brings the smells of delicious street food and rotting trash.
I’ve loved my study abroad in Shanghai these past few months, and I haven’t let the trash situation bother me too much. At first it was more like its own form of culture shock, as it seems normal here in the city. Also, I recognized my Western privilege in how I reacted. But now that I’m packing up my things, realizing that I can’t bring back everything, it really bothers me that I’m adding to the trash piles of Shanghai. I have a stack of papers and old notes from class that I want to recycle, but I know that it won’t ever see a proper recycling bin. We drink water by the bottles everyday, and they end up in the trash can every time. Not to mention the food we didn’t finish, laundry detergent left unused, and so on.
Shanghai is one of the most cutting-edge and futuristic cites I’ve ever been to, and it’s a shame their environmental care hasn’t caught up yet. For every modern skyscraper, there’s a traditional lane house whose street is full of garbage. I know that this is a problem all over China, and one that the government recognizes, so hopefully more will be done to fix this problem sooner rather than later. I’ve also seen a number of environmental PSA videos on the subway and buses, so it’s good to see awareness getting brought to the issue. I’ve loved my time here in Shanghai, and I love this city. I would hate for “the Paris of the East” to have a reputation of grime and dirt that tourists wouldn’t be able to overlook.
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<p>Lily is a journalism student at Emerson College and is excited to be spending her summer in Shanghai. She loves traveling, learning about new cultures, and eating all the best local food. Exploring one of the most exciting places in the world, follow Lily as she explores her roots and Shanghai!</p>