China is developing state-of-the-art facilities that turn rubbish into power. The “Municipal Waste to Energy Project” operates on a concession model to establish plants that burn municipal solid waste for the generation of electricity. The plants employ clean technology that do not require additional burning of fossil fuels, and live up to the highest international emission standards.
4 plants already operating
480 gigawatts of electricity generated annually
544,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent reduced per year
Effective disposal of municipal solid waste is a serious environmental challenge in China. Due to rapid urbanization, China has become the world’s second-largest producer of municipal solid waste. More than 35 per cent of such waste is simply dumped into unsuitable landfills, meaning citizens are exposed to soil and groundwater contamination, as well as severe air pollution. This is especially true for the urban poor living near the landfills. The uncontrolled decomposition of such waste triggers release of the potent greenhouse gas methane.
Although waste-to-energy projects can effectively reduce solid waste while producing heat and energy, China previously employed circulating fluidized bed incinerators, which require supplemental coal to burn the waste. The extensive use of coal without adequate emission control, actually worsen urban air pollution
With assistance from the Asian Development Bank, China is now developing waste-to-energy processing with appropriate, clean technologies. Under public-private partnerships that offer concessions to municipal governments, such plants have been built in four cities. The project employs state-of-the-art, reliable technology that does not require coal as supplemental fuel. Furthermore, air emissions are treated to meet the world's most stringent environmental standards.
Helping the planet
Such treatment reduces waste volumes by 90 per cent, while treated leachate – the highly toxic liquid from municipal solid waste – can be put to use. Appropriate waste management thus reduces trash while preventing air and water pollution. By substituting energy from burned trash for fossil fuel combustion, and also by avoiding methane generation from the landfills, the project reduces greenhouse gas emissions and mitigates climate change.
Sites for municipal waste-to-energy plants are selected through public consultations. This minimizes the impact on local communities. Residents of the four cities enjoy cleaner streets, air, and water, while the facilities also provide jobs locally.
Following the successful implementation of the first phase, project coordinators have further developed a second phase to support smaller municipalities. The structure demonstrated through this project can be replicated in the other developing countries in Asia. After all, they face the same environmental challenges regarding disposal and management of municipal solid waste.
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