Garbage Incineration in the People’s Republic of China

Date: 2 May 2017 | posted in: waste - anti-incineration, Waste to Wealth | 0 Facebooktwitterredditmail

Lawsuits and protest demonstrations confront proposed garbage incinerators in China as they have around the world from the US to the Philippines, to India, to Mexico. According to the Yale University School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, China will be experiencing more anti garbage incineration activism as officials plan to burn 1/3 of the country’s municipal solid waste by 2030. “As China’s economy has boomed in recent decades,” reports Michael Standaert, “the amount of garbage and solid waste generated in the country has soared from roughly 30 million tons in 1980 to 200 million tons today, most of it winding up in ill-tended landfills around major cities.”

See, As China Pushes Waste to Energy Incinerators, Protests are Mounting, Yale Environment 360, April 2017.

MSW is expected to increase by 8-10% annually, as landfills across the country are reaching capacity.  The huge investment in incinerators is a concern. The economy needs more jobs. The cost of over 16,000 very large 4,000 ton per day facilities will be $8 billion plus operating expenses. These facilities create relatively few jobs.

Of equal concern is air pollution. There is heavy air pollution throughout China, which the government is committed to abate. Emissions controls and monitoring on several hundred existing garbage incinerators in China are lax. Thousands of new garbage incinerators in Chinese cities will release millions of tons of additional pollutants into the air and toxic ash will forever burden Chinese landfills. Thus as reported by Standaert, “Cynicism among opponents is understandable, given the conflicts of interest around environmental protection in China.”

Increasing employment and reducing air pollution are stated priorities by Chinese national leaders. Are Chinese cities giving recycling a chance?  Unfortunately, the article does not mention China’s efforts in recycling, composting and reuse.

Photo Credit: Yale360.

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Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Waste to Wealth Initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance.