Thursday, May 24, 2012

Beijing sets a two-fly limit for their public toilets

BBC just posted an article and video about Beijing's new ordinances for their public toilets, which includes a stipulation that a public restroom can have no more than two flies in it. Other rules denote that no more than two "discarded items" may be present for longer than a half hour.

Beijing's restrooms are "notorious" for being unclean, and in many neighborhoods, public toilets are the only options of the residents. The laws, though, are aimed at high-traffic and tourist locations such as railway stations, parks, hospitals, and malls. They endeavor to "standardize" the cleanliness of restrooms.

Apparently, this isn't Beijing's first attempt at cleaning up the public restrooms: a 2008 ordinance for the Olympics did not successfully result in a significant change across the board.

China Daily reports that the rules are not meant to be compulsory. The rules also request that restrooms be well-equipped to accommodate the elderly and the disabled.

Public restrooms are not recognized by the UN's Millennium Development Goals as being
"improved" sanitation--thus, public restrooms often don't "count" when it comes to assessing a country's progress towards improving the quality of life of its residents. This is more important, granted, for more "developing" countries in the world who are seeking out international aid and loans, but, internationally, there is very little discussion about public restrooms overall.

Beijing's ordinances are unique in that they address the human experiential aspect of sanitation as opposed to solely focusing on the excreta disposal. The latter is more traditionally and widely accepted as being the purview of the government, whereas the former is often thought of as merely a "nicety." Poor public restroom quality differentially affects women and the elderly, marginalizing already marginalized populations.

This story, I would like to note, is again from an Asian country. Some Asian countries seem, overall, more comfortable talking about toilets and restrooms. Anyone more familiar with Japan or China who can throw in why they seem far more comfortable talking about sanitation than Europe or the US?


  1. My initial uneducated guess is that sanitation is a totally different beast in a country of over a billion people in need of a toilet or toilet-like apparatus several times a day. If you do the math (which gets messy in all kinds of ways in Metaphor Land), then that's how much waste being produced each day? When an infection gets bad enough, it's hard to hide and there's no use in ignoring it, so the countries who are more open to discussion are probably the ones that realize what a major issue this is for them. I heard or read somewhere a few years ago that Japan has a rule that people have to put their trash and recycle out in transparent bags to ensure that people are recycling properly. Damn. Sometimes I think that, of all the parenting styles, the US goes the Indulgent route. And it's not doing us many favors in the long run.

    1. Hm. The idea that the sheer density of people in some of these countries has led to an increased contact with the topic, and, subsequently, more comfort with it--interesting. It'd be interesting to explore the idea.
      It's also interesting seeing the differing concepts of the state in different countries.
      Thanks for commenting. :)

  2. Now that I think about it, doing a comparison on what subjects different countries and cultures find taboo would be interesting, as well. For instance, we might be less talkative when it comes to sanitation but our society is definitely more open about sex than some of the more traditional cultures.