Big garbage, big headache in city’s re­cy­cling ef­forts

Shanghai Daily - - METRO - Hu Min

Re­cy­cling in neigh­bor­hoods is mov­ing apace and works well when trash is a man­age­able size. But larger rub­bish, like con­struc­tion de­bris, ren­o­va­tion dis­cards and foam plas­tics are typ­i­cally des­tined for in­cin­er­a­tion.

How­ever, some dis­tricts are ex­plor­ing new ways to turn this trash into trea­sure.

“We are talk­ing about big waste that is dif­fi­cult to dis­man­tle and re­cy­cle,” said Huang Jian­guang, an of­fi­cial with the Fengx­ian Dis­trict Pub­lic San­i­ta­tion and En­vi­ron­ment Man­age­ment Sta­tion.

In the Fengx­ian Dis­trict, foam plas­tic waste is re­cy­cled for use in paint­ing, photo and mir­ror frames and dec­o­ra­tive mold­ings.

Shang­hai Qunxin Mu­nic­i­pal Ad­min­is­tra­tion Devel­op­ment Co is in charge of deal­ing with prob­lem­at­i­cal trash in the dis­trict’s Nan­qiao Town.

Col­lected foam plas­tic waste is put into a com­pres­sion ma­chine. The heat and pres­sure re­duce ev­ery 90 cu­bic me­ters of waste into 1 cu­bic me­ter of re­cy­clable prod­uct.

“Foam plas­tic waste is priced at less than 1 yuan per half-kilo­gram, so most garbage col­lec­tors don’t want to bother,” said Huang. “In ad­di­tion, the size of the waste doesn’t usu­ally fit into neigh­bor­hood re­cy­cling bins. It’s of­ten just tossed to the side, end­ing up in in­cin­er­a­tion.”

Once re­cy­cled, foam plas­tics fetch up to 6,000 yuan (US$862) per ton.

At Shang­hai Intco In­dus­tries Co, re­cy­cled foam plas­tics are fur­ther pro­cessed into poly­styrene par­ti­cles, which can be made into ex­quis­ite paint­ings, photo and mir­ror frames, and dec­o­ra­tive mold­ings through man­u­fac­tur­ing and as­sem­bling. The most ex­pen­sive frame is priced at nearly 20,000 yuan per ton and is ex­ported over­seas.

Intco oper­ates in Shang­hai and five other cities. It col­lects about 50,000 tons of foam plas­tics ev­ery year, con­vert­ing them into 1.2 mil­lion boxes of dec­o­ra­tive mold­ing.

The mold­ing has the look of mar­ble or solid wood af­ter sur­face coat­ing and is quite wa­ter­proof. It can be used in place of stan­dard prod­ucts mar­ble or solid wood. In the lat­ter in­stance, it can save trees, ac­cord­ing to Intco.

The com­pany’s sales from re­cy­clable foam plas­tic prod­ucts top 200 mil­lion yuan a year.

Though these ef­forts are prov­ing suc­cess­ful, a re­cy­cling in­dus­trial chain for waste foam plas­tics in Shang­hai is still rare. Intco still has to im­port a large vol­ume of re­cy­cled foam plas­tics.

“The root lies in waste sort­ing,” said Huang.

Many com­mu­ni­ties and work units in Fengx­ian do not sort foam plas­tics as a sin­gle cat­e­gory of re­cy­clable ma­te­rial, he said.

“Foam plas­tics are pol­luted once they are mixed with other garbage,” he ex­plained. “Some­times, dis­pos­able foam plas­tic dish­ware is dumped into bins used for house­hold food waste, or wet garbage, with food left in­side.”

The pu­rity of poly­styrene par­ti­cles pro­cessed from such pol­luted foam plas­tics is low, cre­at­ing a prod­uct pretty worth­less on the mar­ket, Huang said.

“Given fac­tors like lo­gis­tics costs, we are ea­ger to get sorted waste foam plas­tics from nearby res­i­den­tial com­mu­ni­ties and work units,” said Jiang Hong­fang, as­sis­tant of gen­eral man­ager of Shang­hai Intco.

Fengx­ian is tack­ling the prob­lem. Twelve sort­ing sites for con­struc­tion de­bris, one in each town in the dis­trict, will be in­stalled, with ma­chines that can com­press the plas­tics sub­si­dized by the dis­trict gov­ern­ment. The end prod­uct will be sup­plied to com­pa­nies like Intco af­ter treat­ment, Huang said.

“Mak­ing the pub­lic re­al­ize the value and pur­pose of garbage sort­ing will en­cour­age their par­tic­i­pa­tion in waste clas­si­fi­ca­tion,” said Xu Zhip­ing, di­rec­tor of the en­vi­ron­men­tal san­i­ta­tion depart­ment of the Shang­hai Green­ery and Pub­lic San­i­ta­tion Bureau.

Proper garbage sort­ing also raises the value of waste, he added.

Some res­i­den­tial com­plexes in Fengx­ian are now in trial projects re­lated to garbage sort­ing.

At the Wang­hai Xindu and Miao­jing res­i­den­tial com­plexes, in­te­rior dec­o­rat­ing com­pa­nies must reg­is­ter with prop­erty man­age­ment com­pa­nies and pay a de­posit be­fore they can work in the com­mu­ni­ties. If they don’t sort trash such as foam plas­tics, floor­ing, so­fas and mat­tresses at des­ig­nated sites, they face warn­ings and then for­fei­ture of their de­posits. They may also be banned from work­ing in the com­mu­ni­ties.

In Jin­shan Dis­trict, au­thor­i­ties dis­cov­ered that the de­bris of home dec­o­rat­ing, such as dis­carded fur­ni­ture, was re­jected by waste col­lec­tion sta­tions be­cause the trash was too big to dis­man­tle and too dif­fi­cult to trans­port.

Spe­cific treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties tar­get­ing big garbage are in­ad­e­quate in Jin­shan, of­fi­cials said. Treat­ment hasn’t caught up with de­mand, re­sult­ing in a rapid rise of prob­lem­at­i­cal garbage, ac­cord­ing to the Jin­shan Dis­trict Green­ery and Pub­lic San­i­ta­tion Bureau.

The bureau will cre­ate 11 sites for dis­man­tling and re­cy­cling such trash in towns and in­dus­trial zones.

Shang­hai is em­barked on a lon­grun­ning cam­paign to ad­dress its mount­ing vol­umes of trash. Re­cy­cling is the watch­word when ma­te­ri­als can be sorted, col­lected and treated for re­use.

The city plans to fully im­ple­ment a do­mes­tic garbage-sort­ing pro­gram by 2020. A draft of the reg­u­la­tions was re­viewed by the Shang­hai Peo­ple’s Con­gress in Septem­ber.

The reg­u­la­tions cover all the pro­cesses in the garbage chain — from dump­ing and col­lec­tion to trans­porta­tion and treat­ment.

Com­pa­nies and fac­to­ries will be re­quired to ad­here to clean pro­duc­tion meth­ods and use eco-friendly man­u­fac­tur­ing tech­nolo­gies, ac­cord­ing to the draft.

There are cur­rently 1,475 col­lec­tion sites for re­cy­clable wastes in the city.

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