Waste output from China is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2004, China surpassed the United States as the world’s largest producer of trash. There are several contributing factors which have caused this surge in chinese waste production.
Modernization of urban residential infrastructure is one of the largest of these factors. The majority of the country still depends on coal to provide heat and energy. The World Bank estimates that by 2030, more than half of the country will have upgraded to gas and electric, energy sources which have a substantially lower environmental impact.
Furthermore, Chinese recycling practices lag behind other developed nations. Typically, Chinese waste is not sorted at the source, making it extremely difficult for waste streams to be sorted and thus recycled. The Chinese government is working hard to educate and inform the population on proper recycling techniques. Estimates indicate that by 2030, the Chinese will have improved their paper recovery rates to over 50%, which will have an enormous impact on waste production.
Finally, the Chinese are working on creating safer landfills. At present, many landfills in China are also polluted with hazardous chemicals which leach into groundwater and make standard recycling practices impossible. Chinese researchers are formulating plans for eliminating these “brownfields,” which are a major contributor to pollution throughout Chinese urban environments.
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