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September 17, 2012

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Home » Metro » Environment

Bag it, Shanghai tells drivers and passengers who litter the streets

SHANGHAI began handing out a first batch of 120,000 rubbish bags to taxis and private vehicles yesterday in an bid to stop litter being thrown into the street.

The plastic bags, with anti-littering slogans, were being distributed to drivers at intersections, highway toll stations and major taxi companies including Dazhong, Qiangsheng and Jinjiang.

"The campaign will firstly cover the city's taxis and then extend to private vehicles via auto clubs and other social organizations," Huang Rong, director of the Shanghai Construction and Transport Commission, said at a launch ceremony for the bag distribution campaign yesterday.

Litter thrown from vehicles has long been an annoyance for the city's traffic and public sanitation authorities.

Some 63 percent of residents admitted they had littered from cars while about 95 percent said they had witnessed such bad behavior on city streets, according to a survey by the commission.

Up to eight tons of litter is cleared from local roads and highways daily with most of it thrown from vehicle windows, the commission said.

Cleaners work in the morning, afternoon and at midnight every day to clear the roads both with sweeping cars and manually.

The rubbish bag scheme has been welcomed by cab drivers.

"It's a good idea," said Cao Yong'an, a veteran cabbie with Dazhong Taxis.

"Passengers could leave litter in the bags instead of throwing items out of the window. And the bags will be a great relief to drivers on occasions when passengers feel unwell and start to vomit or need to spit - which happens frequently," Cao said.

However, questions are raised about the lack of places for drivers to put the plastic bags once they are full of rubbish.

"The government gave me the bags but failed to tell me where to throw them while driving on roads and expressways," said He Wei, who was one of the first drivers to receive a bag.

He said he worried that the bag would not prevent littering from cars, but instead make some drivers throw full bags out the window that would be a bigger problem for the traffic.

However, Huang said some bins had been designed for taxis and private vehicles to contain the litter bags and solve the problem.

The city imposes a 5 to 50 yuan (US$7.92) penalty for people who throw litter from their vehicles but catching the people responsible has proved difficult.

Cab drivers said it was impractical to expect them to supervise customers or punish them for breaking the rule.

Traffic police say the practice not only pollutes the environment but also poses a risk of road accidents because any kind of flying litter could pose a danger to nearby vehicles, especially those driven by drivers who are new behind the wheel.

"Even if it's only soft food packaging, it could startle drivers traveling behind," a traffic police officer surnamed Yu said.

"If they happen to be a new driver, they may fail to make the right emergency reaction and could crash," Yu said.

Yu said that the danger was especially acute on expressways where people were driving faster.

"It is also dangerous for cleaners to clean the roads in daytime as the sweeping vehicles can run only 20 kilometers per hour and sometimes other vehicles fight for lanes with us," a cleaner said.


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