Hints and tips to make garbage sorting more fun, and more easy
Shot by Andy Boreham. Edited by Andy Boreham. Subtitles by Andy Boreham and Wang Xinzhou.

It’s been a long time coming, but the day is finally here — Shanghai’s first ever domestic garbage sorting regulation has come into force. Are you ready?

Don’t fret, because I’ve spent the last week sorting my own garbage in preparation, and I have some useful hints and tips to share that should make sorting garbage more fun, and you might even learn a thing or two.

Fun games

You may have heard this adage: "If you want to spend, it's Taobao 'til the end." Okay, I just made that up, but you already know — regardless of how long you’ve lived in China — that Taobao has everything. One of the gems I found last week was a garbage sorting card game. I’m not lying.

It comes with dozens of cards, each featuring a type of trash, and four colored trash bins to place them inside. You can play alone, or in a group — just make sure you don’t lose the answer booklet because there are bound to be disagreements!

If you have kids in your family, they’ll become Shanghai trash sorting experts in no time, although I can’t guarantee that will translate to a willingness to sort trash in real life.

Adults can play, too — take a shot every time someone places recyclables in the kitchen waste bin. That sounds like my idea of a Saturday night!

You can even use the game to brush up your Mandarin Chinese skills, because each trash card features nouns in English and Chinese.

Hints and tips to make garbage sorting more fun, and more easy
Andy Boreham / SHINE

Card game is a good way to learn garbage sorting knowledge.

Follow Shanghai Fabu on WeChat

Shanghai Fabu (上海发布) is the city’s official WeChat account, and it features an online trash search that allows you to find out which bin any piece of garbage should go in. If you don’t read Chinese, no problem — just follow the simple instructions below. Don’t forget, you also need to input Chinese to search trash, but there are plenty of translation apps to help you — I recommend Pleco.

Hints and tips to make garbage sorting more fun, and more easy

It's easy to use Shanghai Fabu's trash search engine, even if you don't know Chinese!
1) Click the bottom left button (市政大厅). 2) Click the trash bin icons. 3) Enter what you want to look up and hit 查询.

Color coding

Some of the colors of the four types of trash don’t seem that logical, like how recyclables are blue and not green. But you can easily remember the colors by creating little narratives.

The first is super easy: red is for danger, so that’s hazardous waste. This group features things that might hurt someone, or the environment, like old medicine and broken glass, to old paint and expired makeup.

Next is blue for recyclables. Yes, it should have been green, but we can remember this group by picturing a clear sky — looking after the environment in Shanghai often leads to bluer skies.

Brown is for kitchen food waste, and you can remember this by picturing the color your food turns after you eat it. It’s gross, but it works!

Lastly there’s black, or residual waste, which is basically like a black hole for everything else.

Getting your head around the color coding of Shanghai’s official trash sorting bins will put you in good stead to sort your own trash in no time.

Buy your own mini colored bins

Another gem on found on Taobao was small Shanghai garbage sorting bins for your home. They look like the real thing, and come in a range of different sizes.

Shanghai apartments are often low on space, but these bins are small and can take the place of your current trash can. This allows you to sort your trash directly at home, and saves fumbling around down at the communal trash sorting depot in your complex.

Hints and tips to make garbage sorting more fun, and more easy

These official-looking trash sorting bins for the home are super handy, allowing you to sort your trash in the privacy of your home.

Click the video at the top to check out Andy's helpful tips for making trash sorting easier, and more fun!