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China opens world’s biggest incineration plant

Shanghai has completed the expansion of the Laogang Renewable Resource Recycling Center. The incineration power plant is the largest of its kind and capable of processing around 2.7 million tonnes of waste per year.

The upgraded waste-to-energy plant was opened last Friday. It can generate up to 1.5 billion kilowatt hours of power while the slag from the burned waste can be recycled into building materials. Shanghai, the largest city in China with more than 26 million people, generates over 20 000 tonnes of waste every day. This represents about one third of the volume that can be processed at Laogang.

‘If you dump all of the garbage generated by the residents of Shanghai in one day into the Hongkou Football Stadium, it would pile up to a 21-metre-high hill,’ says Wu Yuefeng, chief engineer at the plant. ‘But after treatment, we can reduce this to only 2 per cent of its original weight and 1 per cent of its volume.’

The incineration site is part of the Laogang solid waste complex, which covers 29.5 square kilometres. This makes it the biggest solid waste treatment base in Asia and it has processed over 75 million tonnes of material since it became operational in 1989. 

Shanghai authorities have announced plans for more waste treatment facilities in the near future. For example, 41 temporary large-scale garbage storage stations and 8000 waste sorting and recycling stations will be built by 2020.

Also, starting 1 July, residents must sort their trash according to ‘wet’, ‘dry’, ‘recyclable’, or ‘hazardous’ labels on new bins. Over the last few days, however, people have struggled with the mandatory system. The government has created an app to handle inquiries. It has also hired 1700 sorting instructors and conducted 13 000 training sessions to help citizens recycle.  

China aims to take the waste sorting scheme nation-wide by 2025.

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