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.

the sting Milestones

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

UN chief sends condolences to families of Malawi flood victims

Food safety: Enhancing consumer trust in EU risk assessment and authorisation

This company helps women to become solar entrepreneurs

Continuing incarceration of women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, ‘reprehensible’: UN experts

7 simple steps we can all take to reduce food waste

Globalization is changing. Here’s how your business can adapt

The rise and rise of media on your mobile phone – in one chart

The impact of COVID-19 on the life of the elderly

UN spotlights digitization of audiovisual archives to preserve human history on World Day

Central Africans ‘need our help now’: UN’s deputy relief chief

UN human rights report cites ‘multiple root causes’ of deadly Chile protests

3 important lessons from 20 years of working with social entrepreneurs

Employment: Commission proposes €1.6 million from Globalisation Adjustment Fund to help 400 workers made redundant in Carrefour Belgique

Support ‘winds of change’ in DR Congo to consolidate positive developments, urges UN mission chief

What we take for granted: The EU is not perfect

Healthcare workers’ safety: a forgotten necessity

As COP25 goes into the night, Guterres calls for more climate ambition

European Commission registers Χαλλούμι/Halloumi/Hellim as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO)

G20: Less growth, more austerity for developing countries

Germany resists Macron’s plan for closer and more cohesive Eurozone; Paris and Berlin at odds

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: “Chinese economy has great potential, resilience and ample space for policy adjustment”, China’s Vice President Li Yuanchao reassures from Davos

Millions denied citizenship due to ideas of national, ethnic or racial ‘purity’: UN rights expert

Paris, Washington, IMF against Berlin and ECB on money and interest

Myanmar: New UN envoy offers to serve ‘as a bridge’, recognizes ‘positive steps’ over Rakhine state

Guinea-Bissau spotlights threats of organized crime, Sahel terrorism in speech to UN Assembly

COVID-19: What you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic on 4 January

Palm Oil: With Malaysia cracking down on production, what’s the alternative?

A Monday to watch the final act of a Greek tragedy; will there be catharsis or more fear?

Data exchanges: Strengthening Europol cooperation with non-EU countries

Migration and rule of law on next ACP-EU Parliamentary Assembly agenda

Violence on the rise in Darfur following Sudan military takeover, but UN-AU peacekeeping mission maintains ‘robust posture’

This is why retail is such a sore point in India-US trade relations

President David Sassoli to visit Skopje: “Remain on the European track”

Former Chilean President Bachelet put forward by UN chief as next High Commissioner for Human Rights

How to keep essential value chains moving during the COVID-19 crisis

Mergers: Commission opens in-depth investigation into proposed acquisition of Metallo by Aurubis

A small group of world leaders are standing together against inequality

EU budget 2019 approved: focus on the young, innovation and migration

Forget 2009, this is the real credit crisis of our time

Energy Union: deals on efficiency targets and governance

UPDATED: Thousands flee fighting around Libyan capital as Guterres condemns escalation, urges ‘immediate halt’ to all military operations

New seat projections for the next European Parliament

The new era of Matriarchy?

4 ways to keep the momentum rolling on mental health

Services are the hidden side of the US-China trade war

Spring 2019 Economic Forecast: Growth continues at a more moderate pace

Visa-free access to the EU for UK nationals and to the UK for EU nationals

Top officials say UN will support Bahamas’ rescue, relief efforts as Hurricane Dorian churns in Atlantic

Budget Committee backs €2.3 million worth of aid to help 550 redundant media workers in Greece

Human rights on film: International festival celebrates mobile phone films for a cause

EU fight against tax-evasion and money laundering blocked by Britain

World Population Day: ‘A matter of human rights’ says UN

Ahead of UN summit, leading scientists warn climate change ‘hitting harder and sooner’ than forecast

The invisible L word: the struggles to achieve SRHR, as HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment for lesbian population

To solve the climate crisis, we need an investment revolution

‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ clean-up project launches trial run: UN Environment

Parliament votes reform for better European Co2 market but critics want it sooner than later

How COVID-19 accelerated the shift towards TradeTech

Why the UK government must do more to boost green revolution

On Brexit: the outcome of UK elections next May to be based on false promises?

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