A young tourist walks toward a rubbish cabinet at the Bund in Shanghai.(Photo by Yang Yi / for China Daily)
Regulations requiring Shanghai households and enterprises to sort their trash will create opportunities in circular economy
Trash sorting was a hot topic in Shanghai in the weeks before a new municipal regulation on waste management took effect on July 1, requiring everyone, from households to businesses, to sort their trash into recyclable, kitchen, hazardous and residual waste.
Though the regulation inconveniences people while they form new habits and those who don't comply face fines, it has boosted existing waste treatment business and will create new opportunities in the circular economy.
Dealing with waste is big business as 200 billion yuan ($29 billion) in investment will be needed if the current trash-sorting program in Shanghai is to be implemented across China, according to a recent report by Orient Securities.
The report calculated a 7.56-billion-yuan market for Shanghai in the whole industrial chain－education, monitoring of garbage disposal, transportation, and construction of waste treatment facilities. It then projected the Shanghai model to the national level, and estimated the market size will be around 200 billion yuan.
China plans to set up domestic waste classification systems in 46 major cities by next year, and all the cities at prefecture level and above, about 300, should have similar systems to classify and dispose of trash by 2025, according to the Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.
Zhang Lequn, deputy director of the urban development department at the ministry, said in a news conference in June that the government will inject 21.3 billion yuan into the building of waste treatment facilities.
As the trash-sorting program is implemented in Shanghai, more kitchen and food waste, which will demand proper treatment facilities, is being separated from residual waste.
According to the Shanghai Municipal Administration of Landscaping and City Appearance, Shanghai now has more than 6,000 metric tons of kitchen waste every day, but the existing kitchen waste treatment facility can only process about 5,000 tons.
The administration is responsible for the city's domestic waste management, and it aims to increase the capacity of waste treatment in Shanghai to handle more than 20,000 tons of residual waste through incineration and to utilize 7,000 tons of kitchen waste every day next year.
Hua Yinfeng, general manager at Shanghai Liming Resources Reuse Co, told local news portal Shanghai Observer: "All the people sorting trash have given us confidence to expand our plant."
The company operates an organic waste treatment center in Pudong New Area that turns kitchen waste into electricity. Its current capacity is 300 tons of kitchen waste per day, and the plant expansion will allow it to process another 700 tons.
The plant uses correctly sorted organic waste to produce biogas, but when it started in 2017, about 30 to 40 percent of the waste it received contained other waste such as plastic bottles, construction trash and paper, which needed to be removed first to avoid lower efficiency during the anaerobic procedure.
The purity of the kitchen waste rose significantly in 2018 when Shanghai announced an action plan for trash sorting, and now after the implementation of the regulation, 99 percent of the waste it receives meets the minimum quality level, said Hua.