Chinese government to spend £29 billion improving waste systems

China is to dedicate 252 billion yuan (£29 billion) to addressing the issue of waste over the next three years, the country’s economy agency has announced.

Chinese government to spend £29 billion improving waste systems
Landfills, like this one in the Hunan province, are leaching into soil and water
The country’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), which works on economic and social development policies, says that the funding will be provided in an attempt to reduce the effects of soil and water pollution caused by illegal waste disposal in fields and rivers, and growing landfills encroaching into farmland.

According to a statement released over the weekend, the agency says it plans to allocate around two-thirds of the money towards developing ‘non-harmful’ ways of disposing of household waste, including ‘incineration, landfills and recycling’.

Chinese news outlet Caixin has also quoted an unnamed NDRC official as saying that a regulation making it compulsory for households and businesses to sort their waste will be announced shortly, in addition to the funding.

Sorting systems to be established

By 2020, the NDRC plans to establish systems to sort household waste in all four of China’s provincial-level municipalities – Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and Chongqing – which between them have a population of around 84.5 million, as well as each of the capitals of the country’s other 29 provinces.

These systems, it says, will separate waste before it is send to landfills, allowing waste streams to be ‘incinerated’, reducing the volume of material going to landfill.

Incinerators will be established over the next five years across the country to treat at least 60 per cent of its household waste, the NDRC says, while ‘at least’ one-third of all household waste, including at least some organic waste, will be recycled under the planned changes.

The NDRC says that, at present, not having an effective sorting system is hindering the efficiency of incinerators as mixing waste with moist organic waste is more difficult to incinerate. 9.4 billion yuan (£1.1 billion) has been assigned to creating waste-sorting pilot programmes to be launched nationwide before 2020.

Through developing these systems, the NDRC says it hopes to reduce the amount of household waste sent to regulated landfills every day by five per cent, from over 500,000 tonnes to 477,000 tonnes. Capacity at incineration plants will also be expanded by more than 150 per cent to 591,000 tonnes per day.

The amount of waste in China is increasing due to the increasing population of young adults, a rapidly growing middle class and the illegal trade in waste.

Earlier this month, a report analysing electronic waste in east and south-east Asia published by the United Nations University found that 16 million tonnes are now generated every year across the 12 nations (which are home to almost 30 per cent of the world’s population), an increase of 63 per cent in five years.

In China, which receives exports of electronic waste from many other countries, the amount of waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), which contains materials that are both valuable and hazardous to health and the environment, grew by 6.7 million tonnes in 2015 and has doubled since 2010. The Guardian points out that this figure means that if every woman, man and child in China disposed of an LCD monitor it would not equal the 2015 tonnage.

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