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Recycling the answer to China's junk dilemma

Experts on Friday called on the government and public to reduce, reuse and recycle as much waste as possible as official data showed more than one-third of the country's cities are besieged by garbage.

Only about 5 percent of about 1 billion tons of construction waste generated each year in the country is recycled or reused, said Wang Jiwei, Secretary General of the China Association of Resource Comprehensive Utilization, at an ecological forum held in Southwest China's Guizhou province.

"The public still need to enhance their awareness of the importance of reusing garbage," he said. "They should realize waste is just misplaced resources."

Also at the forum, Zheng Kangbin, senior economist at Asian Development Bank, said, "People should take into consideration cost, cash flow, security and technical suitability in ecologically friendly projects, and attract more investment."

China could also learn from advanced foreign experiences in risk control and policy stipulation, according to Zheng.

Eugene Chien, chairman of the Taiwan Institute for Sustainable Energy, said drawing from the island's experience, it is important to introduce multiple policies and measures to reduce garbage from the source.

Citizens should be educated and trained on green consumption and garbage treatment, he said.

Household garbage classification for collection has long been a headache for recycling. Many big cities, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Hangzhou, pioneered garbage classification in 2000. Thirteen years later, though, the initiative has yet to get off the ground.

"With no precondition-garbage classification, following disposal methods -- landfill, burning and bio-degeneration -- will only be empty words," said Huang Xiaoshan, a grassroots garbage disposal campaigner who built a mini-trash treatment facility dubbed "Green House" in his suburban home community in Beijing.

"We should set up a low-cost garbage classification system, which clarifies the responsibilities of the government, the public and companies," Huang said.

A China Youth Daily report on Friday cited a government survey showing more than one-third of the country's cities are besieged by garbage, with dumped rubbish taking up 50,000 hectares of land.

Insufficient recycling has been blamed as a major reason behind the mounting garbage surrounding cities in a rapidly urbanizing China, according to the report.

The World Bank said in a report last year global cities face surging costs for garbage treatment as it predicted a sharp rise in the amount of rubbish generated by urban residents.

The report estimated the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) will rise from the current 1.3 billion tons per year to 2.2 billion tons annually in 2025, with much of the increase coming in fast growing cities in developing countries.

The report revealed that the amount of MSW is growing fastest in China, other parts of East Asia, parts of Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Growth rates for MSW in these areas are similar to their rates for urbanization and increases in gross domestic product (GDP).

Wang Yi, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, said at the forum that China will experience the hardest transitional period for environmental protection in the next ten years with accelerating urbanization and the country's continuing industrial development.

The interests of all parties -- companies, NGOs, individuals -- should be taken into consideration to recycle resources, and transitional strategies should be worked out, Wang said.

The Chinese government is intensifying its efforts on city garbage treatment as capacity falls short of demand amid fast urbanization, realizing the surging amount of garbage produced in cities affects the urban environment and social stability.

"If I had known earlier, I would not have grown any rice," said Li, who said he plans to find a new line of work in the city next year.

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