China is a developing country; it is also the world’s most populous nation. Waste management has not been high on its agenda, as it has been involved in a massive modernisation and urbanisation program for a number of decades. China has been thrust into the focus of the developed world because of its rapidly growing economic might and because of global warming. Suddenly, what China did domestically, was now very important to the rest of the world, in terms of greenhouse gases produced. There has been pressure from environmentalists and developing nations for them to reduce the number of coal fired power stations they have.
Looking at the waste management issue, China produces some three hundred million tons of waste per year. Due to the urbanisation within the country and the shift to a consumerist lifestyle, this massive amount of packaging waste is stressing an underdeveloped public waste management system. It is unsorted municipal waste, which is picked up by trucks and disposed of in landfills and waste incinerators on the edges of the cities. Currently, government waste management services do not have the capacity to provide a recycling system. There needs to be much more investment here.
Waste Management in China: An Eco-Disaster
This eco-disaster is also an eco-challenge for China. The composition of the majority of the solid waste matter being disposed of is organic. The problem with organic matter in landfill is that it does not decompose properly in the anaerobic conditions. Rather, it produces methane, more greenhouse gas. An education program needs to be instigated to make Chinese residents aware of the problems and the part that they can play in the solution. The Chinese government needs to lead the way, as government bodies in Western nations have done in bringing in new recycling programs and promoting them to their citizens.
Taking advice from Australian waste management companies could be another short-cut for the Chinese. Opening the waste market up to private enterprise will speed up the process of making waste profitable. Organic waste can produce energy and recycling can generate profits in a number of areas. Societies have to pay for their waste, both residents and commercial interests, and this then turns a problem into an opportunity. Waste management in China: An eco-disaster which can become an eco-challenge. It is as much a mind-set thing as it is anything else; China must understand the consequences of not properly managing its waste and then set the economic levers in place to clean it up and profit from it.