This Chinese megacity is building a giant waste-to-energy plant

rubbish 19

(Hermes Rivera, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Johnny Wood, Senior Writer, Formative Content


The architects of what is set to be the world’s largest waste-to-energy plantdescribe their creation as simple, clean and iconic. It’s a mammoth structure which sits on the outskirts of the city of Shenzhen in southern China and once operational will process up to 5,000 tonnes of waste each day.

With a population of 20 million people, the city produces a lot of waste: about 15,000 tonnes daily according to SHL Architects, which will be used by the plant to generate electricity.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about the transition to clean energy?

Part of the attraction of waste-to-energy technology is that it’s a dual-purpose solution – it rids urban areas of their growing waste problem, while generating electricity as a byproduct.

But the Shenzhen plant and has met with opposition from local residents and environmental groups who fear it will emit dangerous levels of dioxins and other toxins.

How does waste-to-energy work?

The process captures heat from incinerating unwanted waste materials, which drives a turbine to generate electricity. Burning waste releases harmful CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, but according to the architects, at half the level of an average landfill site – where much of Shenzhen’s waste ends up.

China has the largest installed waste-to-energy capacity of any country, with more than 300 plants in operation. This capacity has increased annually by 26% over the past five years, compared with just 4% average growth in capacity in OECD countries.

The plant’s roof will be fitted with 40,000 m2 of solar panels.
Image: SHL Architects
Interest in waste-to-energy technologies is growing, with the global market estimated to be worth $40 billion by 2023, according to the World Energy Council.

The world’s population will reach 9.8 billion by 2050, according to UN predictions, with 68% of those people living in cities, making solutions that remove urban waste and produce energy attractive to investors.

Wasted energy

China generates more waste than any other country, according to World Bank figures. But countries and cities around the globe face similar challenges.

Once constructed, Shenzhen’s new plant will combust roughly a third of the city’s daily domestic waste. It will also generate some renewable energy via 40,000 square metres of solar panels on its roof.

While the new plant offers an alternative to the city’s overloaded landfill sites and makeshift waste dumps, its green credentials have been called into question. A residents’ group which fears that landfill waste ash and airborne pollutants from the incinerator will end up in a nearby reservoir has launched a legal challenge to force the site to be relocated to a less densely populated area.

Other proposed waste-to-energy projects around China – Hubei, Hunan, Guangdong, Shandong, Hainan, Jiangxi, and Zhejiang provinces – have also been met with protests.

And while such waste-to-energy projects provide a temporary solution to China’s growing trash problem, it is not a long-term fix. The Shenzhen plant has capacity to cope with about a third of the waste currently produced by the city, but the amount of waste is increasing by 7% a year.

 

A sustainable future lies in changing behaviour to reduce the amount of waste produced, and working towards a circular economy, where discarded items are increasingly reused and recycled.

Advertising

the sting Milestone

Featured Stings

Can we feed everyone without unleashing disaster? Read on

These campaigners want to give a quarter of the UK back to nature

How to build a more resilient and inclusive global system

Stopping antimicrobial resistance would cost just USD 2 per person a year

Trade deals’ pure realism: it may take 10 years for a post-Brexit agreement

Threat to biodiversity risks a flood of economic ruin

Assassinations in Ethiopia amidst regional ‘coup’ attempt, condemned by UN chief

Mixed news about the Eurozone economy

Parliament compromises on Banking Union but sends market abusers to jail

Deutsche Bank chased away from US, threatened with more fines

Consumer product quality: MEPs take aim at dual standards

Finance for SMEs: Alternative supply mechanisms do exist

COVID-19: More new virus cases outside China than in, ‘no time for complacency’, says UN health agency

Eurozone slowly but surely builds its Banking Union

Globally, youth are the largest poverty-stricken group, says new UN report

‘Two pack’ austerity package in force but with less vigor

Civil society groups matter for Cambodia’s sustainable development: UN expert

China is a renewable energy champion. But it’s time for a new approach

Six children among 53 confirmed fatalities after Libya detention centre airstrikes: Security Council condemns attack

EU and China in search of a win-win agreement through strategic cooperation ahead of the EU-China summit

EU tourism industry expects a new record year in 2014

Consumer protection: Commission welcomes political agreement by Council on the Representative Actions Directive

5 ways the world is rallying around Australia as bushfires rage

EU and Mercosur reach agreement on trade

More solidarity and interaction between generations needed to challenge age stereotypes and ingrained ageism

Family businesses are the lifeblood of the Middle East. How do we ensure they survive?

The EU’s outermost regions: strengthened partnership bears fruit

5 facts to know about Africa’s powerhouse – Nigeria

European Business Summit 2014: The role of youth entrepreneurship education in EU’s Strategy for Competitiveness

Concerned over Haiti’s political crisis, Guterres promises ‘continuous commitment’

How fixing broken food systems can help us meet all the SDGs

International Women’s Day 2019: women’s power in politics

Disaster Medicine in Medical Education: the investment you just can´t afford to ignore

Not faith, ‘but those who manipulate the faithful’ driving wedge between religions, UN-backed forum in Baku told

How bad could British healthcare get for its citizens abroad post-Brexit?

Outgoing UN official praises Iraq’s ‘exemplary peaceful transfer of power’ at the top

Easing funding woes for UN agency assisting Palestine refugees a ‘wise investment for today and the future’

Privatization and public health: a question of Human Rights

10 cities are predicted to gain megacity status by 2030

Idlib deal could save three million ‘from catastrophe’ says UN chief, as militants are urged to lay down arms

First-ever EU defence industry fund to finance joint development of capabilities

COP25 climate talks: What just happened, and what lies ahead?

More funds needed to counter ‘persistent and multi-faceted humanitarian problems’ in Ethiopia

Parental leave: why we can’t wait a century for equal rights for women

Universal Health Coverage will ‘drive progress’ on 2030 Development Agenda

Where is Egypt leading the Middle East and the Mediterranean economy?

Trade surplus up production down in Eurozone

Realise the beauty of unity in diversity

Terrorism diverts resources from ‘much-needed’ development to ‘costly’ security, warns UN envoy for Central Africa

5 things to know about the Western Balkans

Reforms in the Western Balkans and Turkey: annual assessments and recommendations

JADE Generations Club: Connecting perspectives, changing Europe.

Theresa May’s global Britain against Philip Hammond’s Brexit fog

Venezuela: Parliament calls for urgent EU help for people fleeing the country

“None of our member states has the dimension to compete with China and the US, not even Germany!”, Head of EUREKA Pedro Nunes on another Sting Exclusive

Intensified Al Qaeda and ISIL activity in Yemen ‘deeply worrying’, says UN Human Rights Office

Australia’s bushfires have pumped out half a year’s CO2 emissions

Further reforms will promote a stronger and more inclusive Hungarian economy

Here are five things to know about the future of being human

How to accelerate digital literacy in the enterprise world

External action: more funds for human rights, development and climate change

Libya: UN report urges accountability for deadly attack against migrant centre

Scotland “shows the way” to separatist movements as Catalonia calls a vote on independence

UN, global health agencies sound alarm on drug-resistant infections; new recommendations to reduce ‘staggering number’ of future deaths

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s