Mounds of rubbish continue to grow at alarming rates along the perimeters of China’s capital city between the ring roads, hence the moniker; the Seventh Ring. As Beijing becomes more and more the throwaway society like its western counterparts, the waste disposal problem worsens.
The government claims that the city’s 17 million people generate some 18,000 tons of waste daily, which totals a staggering 7,000 more tons than the disposal plant’s maximum capacity.
In the last decade, Beijing’s waste problem has been expanding as fast as the economy, and millions of Chinese are now able to afford the amenities (and garbage created by) Starbucks, McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Beijing’s recycling rate is terribly poor at only 4% and residents need more education in this important environmental aspect. At least six governmental plans to build more than 80 incinerators between 2006 and 2010 have been met with hostile public “not in my backyard” opposition.
Only 2% of Beijing’s rubbish is burned and the rest is dumped in landfill sites, which cover an immense area. To address the burgeoning volume of garbage, Beijing authorities have attempted to lessen the dreadful stench with the installation of 100 giant deodorant guns.
Produced by several Chinese firms and based on European technology, these high-pressure fragrance sprays can release gallons of fragrance per minute over a distance of up to 164 feet.
These guns will be installed by May at the Asuwei dump site, which is only one of many malodorous landfills plaguing the city.
Growing public concern over the ramifications of a runaway consumer culture has prompted municipal authorities to apply more plastic layers on the dump site, which will hopefully halt the flow of the stench when the wind blows.
But all of this is just a band-aid on a problem that is guaranteed to get worse before it can even think of getting better.
“All landfill and treatment sites in Beijing will be full in four years. That’s how long it takes to build a treatment plant. So we need to act right now to resolve the issue. It’s necessary to restructure the current disposal system. We cannot rely on landfill anymore. It’s a waste of space,” says Wang Weiping, a waste expert in the city government.
The problem was not created in one day and will not be solved that way either. Massive governmental investment, new legislation to double the capacity of waste disposal facilities, an increase in the incineration rate and a reduction in the volume of garbage through recycling programs offer the only way out.
There is a long way to go.
Was it not a Chinese proverb that spoke of the journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step?
What do YOU think about this?