With nearly 20 years' development, China has acquired the world's largest installed garbage-incinerated power generation capacity, China Energy News reported recently in a "waste-to-energy" summit.
It's expected China's trash-incinerated power capacity will reach 6.8 GW by end-2017. That can bring over 35 TWh of electricity each year by burning more than 100 million tonnes of solid waste, which accounted for 35% of the whole disposals in China's urban areas.
"Waste-to-energy" application has been widely and rapidly promoted these years in the country, where massive urban trash has caused great trouble to people's life and local environment.
Increasing 8-10% annually, China's municipal solid waste totaled 200 million tonnes in 2016, representing approximately a quarter of the world's total generated waste, and is predicted to exceed 500 million tonnes a year by 2025.
By the end of June this year, 296 incinerator power plants in 28 provinces, Qinghai, Tibet and Xinjiang excluded, have been up and running with installed capacity totaling 6.25 GW, or 47% of the country's biomass power capacity, said Guo Yanheng, director at China National Renewable Energy Centre.
"By 2025, 260 million tonnes of trash is projected to be burned for power generation, or over 60% of the total trash disposals," said Xie Hongwen, director at New Energy Department of China Renewable Energy Engineering Institute. "By then, the installed capacity will grow to about 15 GW across the country."
By 2035, he expected trash-burned power plants can burn out 410 million tonnes of trash, or 75% of the whole clean-ups; the total capacity will grow to 22 GW and generate 130 TWh of power each year.
"It will become a modernized industry worth 600 billion yuan, bringing about 100 billion yuan of incomes every year," he added.
However, this kind of power plants is less about generating electricity and more about finding a solution to the existing trash problem - the energy is just a handy bonus.
"Waste-to-energy plants are not an energy solution," Chris Hardie from Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, the Denmark-based firm that won a competition to design a plant of this kind in Shenzhen last year, adding that the amount of greenhouse gases emitted from decomposing landfills is around double the CO2 released by incineration.
There is no quick fix for China's urban waste issues. Instead, municipal governments should take measures to induce Chinese urbanites to voluntarily separate recyclables and organic materials from other trash.
Song Guojun, a professor of environmental economics and management at Renmin University, says there is a clear answer to China's garbage problem.
"If we sorted garbage like many other developed countries do, we'd cut the amount we need to burn in half," he says. "If we had a functioning recycling system, we could cut it by another 20- 30%. Less garbage means less toxic emissions."
(Writing by Alex Guo Editing by Tammy Yang)
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