Across China: Garbage-exchange system smartens up village life

YINCHUAN, Nov. 27 (Xinhua) -- Yu Fujun, 66, is up early on a brisk morning, sweeping his courtyard, tidying the vegetable garden and taking cow dung to the farmland. Yet, two years earlier, he was not so diligent, his rural home in need of a major clean up.

"Yu Fujun and his wife used to raise several cows, and the cow dung was piled up in his courtyard. Villagers nearby often complained about the stink," recalled Yu Baoliang, the village cadre.

The recent improvements in Yu Fujun's living environment are linked to wider changes in the village of Hongxing, in Jingyuan County of Xihaigu, one of China's most impoverished areas, located in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, which saw its last impoverished county removed from the national poverty list on Nov. 16.

China's targeted poverty-alleviation campaign lifted the village out of poverty. However, the living environment was still unpleasant, due largely to poor garbage-disposal habits.

"Changing villagers' living habits is not easy. It demands patience," Yu Baoliang said.

In 2017, cadres in Jingyuan County figured out a feasible way of encouraging farmers to improve the appearance of their homes, and Hongxing became the pilot village.

Those villagers who volunteer to clean up rubbish now get "credit points," which can be used to purchase daily necessities. Waste items, such as plastic bottles, cardboard boxes and used batteries, are deposited at a special supermarket, and groceries and other goods are taken home in exchange.

Accounts are kept of the villagers' credit points, based on the weight of rubbish they collect. The more rubbish they pick, the more credit points they will have, and the more goods they can carry away.

When they first heard about the rubbish-for-goods policy, locals who once carelessly disposed of rubbish started scrambling to collect it, including children. "My child often comes back with new pencils and notebooks. They are all given in exchange for waste she has picked up," said Cheng Wencai, a local villager.

Nowadays, the roads, lanes and courtyards are all tidy and clean. Waste wood and glass bottles, meanwhile, are incorporated into works of art to decorate the village.

The incentive system has also had several other benefits.

"For example, people can get two points for taking part in village meetings and activities, and one point is equal to 1 yuan (about 15 U.S. cents)," Yu Baoliang added.

Individuals and households ranking higher in terms of their total credit points also enjoy priority in winning village-level awards.

At the very beginning, Yu Fujun's ranking was often the lowest. "I felt really embarrassed, so I began to change my bad habits. Now, my points have increased to 80," he said.

To ensure the transparency and fairness of the system, all villagers were engaged in its formulation. Also, a special group consisting of cadres and representatives of villagers was established to make a regular assessment of villagers' points before publicizing the results.

"The system won the villagers' trust. Points speak louder than cadres' words now, and rural governance has become easier for us," Yu Baoliang said.

Since the system was introduced, villagers have actively participated in rural administration, and they have gained the most from it, Ma added.

Last year, the city of Guyuan, which administrates Jingyuan County, extended the system to more villages. So far, the system has been applied in 386 villages in the city.

Yu Wancang, a local villager, has gained more than 300 points. However, he has not traded them for commodities, and he even donated 100 yuan to the supermarket.

"Thanks to the rating system, the environment in our village has become cleaner, so I donated the money to help the system run more smoothly," he said.

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