A Stinky Situation in China

By Linda Nguyen

One man’s trash is certainly not another man’s treasure. In fact, it’s an increasingly stinky problem. China’s prosperity may be growing but so are the mounting piles of trash. China has had problems with their trash for years now.

A summary from The Christian Science Monitor “As China’s prosperity grows, so do its trash piles” by Violet Law.

“It seems that China, which does a brisk business in importing and disposing of Western trash, has been caught off-guard by how fast its own homegrown garbage is building up. After all, this is a country that is traditionally thrifty, and famine and deprivation are still very much in most people’s living memories.

But as China’s economy barrels onward, waste, a byproduct of prosperity, is piling up. And there’s little structure in place to deal with it – aside from the trash pickers. Hong Kong is competitive with the world’s developed economies in churning out garbage according to figures based off a 2009 survey by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Last year, an estimated 2,000 pounds per person of garbage, a quarter of which was food waste, was tossed out in Hong Kong. That outdid the Americans, who on average ditched about 1,700 pounds of trash.”

In the past, China has tried to resolve their trash problem by using giant perfume guns to get rid of the smell. However, since China’s garbage output equals one-third of the world’s total trash, it’s difficult to get rid of the smell, and the trash. The author of “The Coming Collapse of China” Gordon Chang says “Trash has been a problem for all developing countries. But China has more problems than their trash. Trash is just one of their problems and they’ve got to find someplace to put all this stuff. It will get worse.”

And it has gotten worse. According to Violet Law, 

“And even when Chinese do take recycling seriously, the government’s track record on green initiatives makes it difficult to trust that their own efforts aren’t in vain.

Beijing is now in the middle of a drive—the fifth over the past 15 years—to separate food waste and recyclables from other household waste. The previous efforts failed because the municipal officials didn’t treat the sorted trash properly, says Zhang Boju, a researcher with China’s oldest environmental group, Friends of Nature. “There’s a trust gap between the citizens and the government. This gap is the big challenge for the solid waste sorting in Beijing.”

To be sure, many countries grapple with waste problems, but both environmentalists and scholars in China attribute wanton waste disposal here to a low level of environmental awareness.”

China has made efforts to fix the increasing trash problem. For instance, adding more trash bins in cities and creating programs like EcoPark to reduce waste. But these baby steps are not making a big impact on the country just yet. Chang says “It is not effective because the government is not dealing with it. A small issue like water, the government is not doing anything effective; you can’t expect them to deal with solid waste problems.”

The lack of a proper recycling program has affected China in more ways than one. The U.S. has warned the Chinese regime on many of their growing issues such as climate change and air pollution but will the U.S. step in this pile of mess? Chang says “I don’t know what we will do, but I don’t think we will get too involved. We are getting to the point where our relationship with China is deteriorating. Environmental issues are just not important to them.”

Here’s a look at the growing mess in China.



Yangtze River



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