Travelling Waste Free in China

The amount of plastic packaging used in China can be pretty mind-blowing awful. I don’t think it would be possible to travel in China completely waste free, but here are four simple ways you can greatly reduce the amount of rubbish you generate.


1. Reduce drinking water waste

I’ve made this first in the list as I find it the most difficult type of waste to avoid. It is not safe to drink water straight from the tap in China, and even bottled water can contain bacteria or heavy metals. This makes it hard to simply bring your own bottle and refill as you need, but not impossible.

First of all when I have to buy water I always choose Nongfu water as it was recently rated by the Shenzhen Consumer Council as one of China’s cleanest drinking water brands. It is sold in most corner stores/super markets and can be bought in four litre bottles.


When I am staying somewhere for a few days I like to buy the large 4L bottles and then fill up my smaller personal bottle in the morning before I head out.

If you are willing to purchase a portable water filter before you head to China then you are able to drink tap water. I like the Waters Co, Water man mini, it filters out bacteria and heavy metals you just need to boil the water first to kill any viruses. Most hotel rooms and even dorm rooms in backpackers will have a kettle, just make sure the water boils for at least 1 minute.  A high quality water filter is expensive, but so is buying  bottled water every day!


2. Bring your own Tupperware

2013-03-11 08.14.01-1
Sure am glad I have this bag to carry my cup with

It’s common for street vendors to hand over your food in a plastic container, inside two plastic bags. It is super easy to just hand them your own reusable plastic container you might just get a few curious glances. I also like to travel with my own fork to avoid using disposable cutlery.


3. Shop local

A local farmer in Miyun selling produce

Fruit and nuts in in Chinese supermarkets are always wrapped in obscene amounts of packaging. I once saw individually wrapped cranberries! A great way to avoid this waste is to buy fresh snacks from stall holders. If you have your own bag/ container they can weigh and fill it. You’ll see people selling all sorts of nuts and fruit, anywhere that there is a lot of foot traffic, near subway stations is a good place to look. There is concern over the hygiene risk when buying from street vendors and I always wash my fruit before eating.

4. Say no to plastic bags

This one is so easy, and if you are already living waste conscious in Australia it shouldn’t have a big impact on your travels. The biggest issue with this step is the language barrier but luckily, “I don’t need a bag” is a relativity easy phrase to say. Even if you have never practised Chinese before, the context of the phrase makes it easily understood.

 “Bùyòng dàiz”

Bù – pronounced ‘boo’ meaning no

Yòng- pronounced  like ‘gong’ meaning need

dài- pronounced ‘dye’ meaning bag

zi – pronounced ‘ze’ is modifier added to the end off many nouns.

or just show the characters:


What are you favourite tips for reducing waste when travelling?


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