As China moves toward environmentally friendly waste disposal, questions remain on the sustainability and profitability of burning garbage. Julie Noce reports.
A mechanical claw lifts garbage at an incineration plant about 100 kilometres west of Shanghai in China. About 10 tonnes of trash are dumped at this 'waste-to-energy' facility every day. Heat generated by the plant is turned into energy that's pumped into the power grid, and slag from the furnace is recycled into bricks. It's all part of a push to burn rather than bury the country's growing amount of waste. For Cai Shuguang, the vice-chairman at the company who built the plant, the future looks bright for environmentally friendly garbage disposal. I predict in the next 20 years that waste incineration power plants will be the first choice because they are a good use of resources, harmless, and reduce waste, he said. But opposition from communities and lack of incentives still pose obstacles. This plant, one of 223 in operation in China, was built to blend in with the surroundings... the chimney was painted to look like a clock tower. Communities are concerned about the smell and the risk of toxic emissions related to combustion. Experts say there is also a concern that the drive to deal with trash through incineration could make it difficult for China to achieve it's other waste management targets- improved recycling.