Beijing’s Trash Problem Needs More Recycling, Not Deodorant Guns

Beijing has a major garbage problem. The city of 17 million people generates 18,000 tons of waste a day, 7,000 tons more than the capacity of disposal plants. The Guardian reports that the city is installing 100 high pressure deodorant guns at the Asuwei landfill. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. Beijing is going to cover up the smell of its trash dump with the deodorant guns which are able to spray “dozens of liters of fragrance per minute over a distance of up to 50m.” The guns will sit on the edge of the landfill site, and will be installed by May.

In four years, every landfill and treatment site in Beijing will be full, according to the Guardian. The government considered dealing with the city’s trash by incinerating it, but decided against it after opposition from residents.  Less than four percent of Beijing’s trash is recycled, compared to the UK and US  which recycle 35 percent of their trash. Landfills in Beijing cover an area of 333,000 square miles, and only two percent of the city’s trash is incinerated. The rest end up in landfills. The waste problem will only get worse, as the amount of waste generated in China is growing eight percent each year.  As the economy expands, more waste is created.

Wang Jiuliang, a photographer who spent the past year recording and plotting landfills using GPS systems and Google Earth, said there are over 200 legal and illegal landfills around Beijing. “People are forced to use these places for dumps and landfills. There is no better place,” Jiuliang said. “China has become a consumer society over the past 10 or 20 years. The authorities are working hard to solve the garbage problem, but it has emerged too quickly.

“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,” said Wang Weiping, a waste expert in the city government. “It’s necessary to restructure the current disposal system. We cannot rely on landfill anymore. It’s a waste of space.”

Beijing’s local government issued a report in February which proposed to “sort the daily and kitchen garbage in all new and expanded communities and other social units” and to “explore reforms to the garbage collection fees.” The report outlined the goals the city’s government want to accomplish. Zero waste is one of those goals. According to the report the city will start to develop a “a resource- recycling-based economy park at Liangjiawu in Tongzhou District to showcase ways of turning wastes into resources.”

Chinese cities are estimated to account for almost one-third of all garbage produced in the world every year, according to Beijing Review. The world produces an estimated 490 million tons of trash every year, and China’s cities account for 150 million tons. In 2002, the Central Government proposed a system for residents to use when sorting their trash, but the compliance rate is only 16 percent.

Gina-Marie Cheeseman

Gina-Marie is a freelance writer and journalist armed with a degree in journalism, and a passion for social justice, including the environment and sustainability. She writes for various websites, and has made the 75+ Environmentalists to Follow list by Mashable.com.