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Where there is a will, there is a way.

 
 
 

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年过半百,经历坎坷.少年遇"文革",下乡八载,虽历经磨难,唯斗志不减,农耕间隙自学不辍,终守得云开日出,考进大学.大学毕业后先后经历了中学执教,国企管理,外企高管,最后回归重执教鞭.目前在家精心培养有志掌握英语的中小学生. 我最大的愿望就是看到孩子学有所成,桃李天下.

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我新发表的文章《垃圾处理立法刻不容缓》  

2014-06-02 17:00:04|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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Waste legislation: a top priority

Wu Guangqiang

 

ON April 29, thousands of residents in Yuhang District, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, took to the streets to protest against the planned construction of a garbage incinerator in their neighborhood. As with similar incidents in other parts of the country, a handful of lawbreakers engaged in violent activities. Dozens of rioters were detained, but the local government promised not to approve the construction of the project unless it gained a majority of residents in support. 

This mass defiance against projects with potential environmental hazards is the latest instance of the growing NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) movement in China. In recent years, nearly every project with potential environmental impacts, whether it be a paraxylene (PX) complex, a gas pipeline, or a garbage incinerator, has been met with mass opposition. Most of these projects were put on hold or cancelled altogether. 

It’s all very well for us to hail the awakening of popular environmental awareness and consciousness of civil rights, but mere protest and confrontation offers no solution to the ever-worsening garbage deluge. All Chinese cities are besieged by trash mountains and these mountains will keep piling up as the drive toward urbanization goes full steam ahead. By some estimates, China is expected to produce around three times as much trash as the U.S. by 2030. In Shenzhen, the total waste volume is doubled every five years. 

Sadly, at present, the major way China disposes of its waste is in landfills, with very low recycling rates. 

The drawbacks of landfills are obvious. Landfills remain useless for 100 years. Decay in landfills releases large quantities of methane, a powerful gas that contributes to global warming. Seepage from landfills pollutes nearby rivers and underground water. And on top of that, almost all cities are running out of suitable sites for landfills anyway. 

There is no doubt that landfills are a dead end; a better way must be sought after. Incineration has been hyped by some experts as the most environment-friendly way of waste treatment and as the ultimate solution. In theory, incineration has some advantages: reducing the volume of trash, producing energy and purportedly causing less pollution. But the burning process is not without issue. One major public concern is dioxin, a highly toxic chemical generated through combustion. Residents have reason to worry about the possible threat to their health when a garbage incinerator is built close to residential areas. 

Those who live near the Longgang incinerators in Shenzhen complained of smelling the stench of burning garbage a mile away and seeing black smoke rising on the horizon. Despite experts’ guarantee that new incinerators can reach the EU benchmark, the public doesn’t seem to be willing to budge unless they are better informed of relevant knowledge and protective measures. 

Only legislation can resolve the issue fundamentally. China has a legal vacuum in waste management currently except a regulation to control certain materials, known as RoHS (Restriction of Hazardous Substances). Without a well-written law, nothing can be achieved and pointless confrontations will continue. 

All developed countries have well-established laws governing waste disposal. The EU has a Landfill Directive, a Waste Framework Directive, and even a Battery Directive. The U.S. has the National Environmental Policy Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, etc. The U.K. has the Environmental Protection Act of 1990, the Environment Act of 1995, etc. 

Effective waste management requires herculean efforts ranging from the making of policies and regulations, planning and implementation to education and training, recycling and reuse, and financial and marketing considerations. Mayors’ executive orders won’t get the job done alone. 

The U.K. and Japan’s experience shows us the long-term complexity and arduousness of waste management. The foremost job is to minimize the volume of waste, or else no means will be able to handle the ever-mounting pile. Therefore, mobilizing residents to get involved in waste classification and recycling is the key to success. Both education and incentives are important. 

To win sincere public support for the construction of incinerators, the government must offer effected residents all necessary information: the construction scheme, technical preparations, and a third party’s environmental assessment. Only when the public has full knowledge of how the waste will be burned in the nearby incinerator — how it is collected, transported, stored, processed and what substances will be emitted — can they make the correct choice.

 

And all of this is based on the making of a good law.

 

(The author is an English tutor and a freelance writer.)

 

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