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September 11th, 2013:

China vows air pollution cuts in major cities

China vows air pollution cuts in major cities

Thursday, 12 September, 2013 [Updated: 6:10PM]

Agence France-Presse in Beijing

· china_air_pollution.jpg

Another day, another challenging ride through Beijing”s smog-engulfed streets. Photo: EPA

China vowed on Thursday to reduce levels of atmospheric pollutants in Beijing and other major cities by as much as 25 per cent to try to improve their dire air quality.

In a policy document the State Council, or cabinet, said “concentrations of fine particles” in the capital’s air will fall by “approximately 25 per cent” from 2012 levels by 2017.

Other major Chinese cities including Shanghai will see reductions of between 10 and 20 per cent from 2012 levels over the same period, said the plan, posted on the central government’s website.

Cities across China have been hit by intense air pollution in recent years, much of it caused by emissions from coal-burning power stations, with levels of small particles known as PM2.5 reaching as high as 40 times World Health Organisation (WHO) limits this year.

The pollution has been linked to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths, and has tarnished the image of Chinese cities including Beijing, which saw an almost 15 per cent drop in tourist visits during the first half of this year.

The plan said pollution levels would be cut by slowing coal consumption growth so that its share of China’s energy sources fell to 65 per cent by 2017.

It did not specify current levels, but the US Energy Information Administration estimates that coal provided 70 per cent of China’s energy in 2009.

China is the world’s biggest coal consumer and is forecast to account for more than half of global demand next year.

Three of China’s most populated regions – including the areas surrounding Beijing and the manufacturing hub of the Pearl River delta – should “strive to achieve a reduction in total consumption of coal”, the plan said.

It did not state any precise targets for reductions.

Activists gave the proposals a mixed assessment.

The plan “takes very important steps,” towards controlling rapid growth in coal consumption, said Li Yan, climate and energy campaign manager at Greenpeace East Asia.

But to reduce air pollution significantly “it will be necessary to limit coal consumption in other areas as well”, she said in a statement

Better pollution policies would mean longer lives for millions

Thursday, 11 July, 2013, 12:00am



Tom Holland

With a little political will, Beijing could easily hit its targets for mainland urban average PM2.5 levels by 2030, 20 years ahead of schedule[1]

In the early 1990s, China’s former premier, Zhu Rongji, quipped that the move from Shanghai to work in Beijing would take five years off his life.

He was more right than he knew. According to an academic study published this week, air pollution from burning coal has shortened average life expectancies in northern China by five and a half years.

The study blamed government policies that handed out free coal for winter heating in the northern provinces. Those policies have now been scrapped, but as the chart below shows, China’s coal consumption has more than tripled since the time Zhu moved from Shanghai to Beijing.

As a result, the mainland’s air pollution has got much, much worse, with Beijing and other northern cities frequently blanketed in hazardous concentrations of toxic smog.

Gauging just how bad things are is tricky. The best way is to measure atmospheric concentrations of fine particles less than 2.5 micrometres across. Known as PM2.5, these nasty little smuts penetrate deep into the lungs, causing everything from childhood asthma and bronchitis to heart disease and cancer.

Unfortunately, the official figures for many cities are unreliable. But in a report published last month, analysts at Deutsche Bank used a combination of five different methods to estimate PM2.5 concentrations for 70 Chinese cities during the first quarter of this year.

As the second chart shows, pollution levels ranged from the relatively fresh air of Shenzhen, with 47 micrograms per cubic metre, to the foul miasma which shrouds Shijiazhuang, provincial capital of Hebei, at an astonishing 217 micrograms per cubic metre.

To put those numbers into perspective, the World Health Organization’s 2005 guidelines recommend an average annual PM2.5 level of no more than 10 micrograms per cubic metre.

Aware of the health risks, and of popular discontent, the government has pledged to cut pollution. But its targets are modest. Under the plan announced in December, the government aims to reduce PM2.5 concentrations in the Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region and the Yangtze delta by 6 per cent over three years.

As Deutsche Bank’s chief economist, Jun Ma, and his colleagues point out in their report, at that rate it will take 38 years, until 2050 – or two more generations – to bring country-wide PM2.5 levels down to 30 micrograms per cubic metre, still three times the WHO’s recommended maximum.

Ma argues that far more ambitious targets are needed. With a little political will, he maintains that China could easily reduce its urban average PM2.5 levels to 30 micrograms per cubic metre by 2030, 20 years ahead of the current schedule.

He calls for taxes on coal to be increased at least five-fold to slow the growth of, and eventually reduce, consumption. On top of that, pollution charges should be doubled or tripled to encourage the use of scrubbers to cut emissions from coal burning.

To slow the growth of vehicle sales, Ma calls for the introduction of a Singapore-style auction system that would make owning a private car punitively expensive. At the same time, city governments should invest heavily in low-pollution public transport such as metro rail systems, while the central government should double its subsidies for clean energy generation.

Best of all, Ma argues his plan is affordable, with the revenue from new taxes paying for the rise in clean energy subsidies.

Although the coal and automobile sectors would suffer, he reckons the economic cost would be offset by the faster expansion of China’s new energy and public transport sectors. As a result, Ma says China could still keep up an average growth rate of 6.8 per cent over the next 18 years.

That might be overly optimistic, but if it means living for an extra five years, no one’s going to complain. [2]


Air Pollution

Air pollution in China


Incinerating trash a waste of resources

Incineration is expensive, inefficient and environmentally unfriendly

September 11, 2013

VANCOUVER, BC, Sep 11, 2013/ Troy Media/ – Many urban areas have built or are considering building waste-incineration facilities to generate energy. At first glance, it seems like a win-win. You get rid of “garbage” and acquire a new energy source with fuel that’s almost free. But it’s a problematic solution, and a complicated issue.

Metro Vancouver has a facility in Burnaby and is planning to build another, and Toronto is also looking at the technology, which is already being used elsewhere in the region, with a plant in Burlington and another under construction in Clarington. The practice is especially popular in the European Union, where countries including Sweden and Germany now have to import waste to fuel their generators.

The term “waste” is correct; there’s really no such thing as garbage. And that’s one problem with burning it for fuel. Even those who promote the technology would probably agree that the best ways to deal with waste are to reduce, reuse and recycle it. It’s astounding how much unnecessary trash we create, through excessive packaging, planned obsolescence, hyper-consumerism and lack of awareness. This is one area where individuals can make a difference, by refusing to buy over-packaged goods and encouraging companies to reduce packaging, and by curbing our desire to always have newer and shinier stuff.

We toss out lots of items that can be reused, repaired or altered for other purposes. As for recycling, we’ve made great strides, but we still send close to three quarters of our household waste to the landfill. Considering each Canadian produces close to 1,000 kilograms of waste a year, that’s a lot of trash! Much of the material that ends up in landfills is usable, compostable or recyclable, including tonnes of plastics.

Turning unsorted and usable trash into a valuable fuel commodity means communities are less likely to choose to reduce, reuse and recycle it. Burning waste can seem easier and less expensive than sorting, diverting and recycling it. But once it’s burned, it can never be used for anything else – it’s gone!

Incinerating waste also comes with environmental problems. Although modern technologies reduce many air pollutants once associated with the process, burning plastics and other materials still creates emissions that can contain toxins such as mercury, dioxins and furans. As with burning fossil fuels, burning waste – much of which is plastics derived from fossil fuels – also produces carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions that contribute to climate change.

Burning waste doesn’t make it disappear, either. Beyond the fly ash and pollutants released into the atmosphere, a great deal of toxic “bottom ash” is left over. Metro Vancouver says bottom ash from its Burnaby incinerator is about 17 per cent the weight of the waste burned. That ash must be disposed of, usually in landfills. Metro testing has found high levels of the carcinogenic heavy metal cadmium in bottom ash, sometimes twice the limit allowed for landfills. High lead levels have also been reported.

Incineration is also expensive and inefficient. Once we start the practice, we come to rely on waste as a fuel commodity, and it’s tough to go back to more environmentally sound methods of dealing with it. As has been seen in Sweden and Germany, improving efforts to reduce, re-use and recycle can actually result in shortages of waste “fuel”!

It’s a complicated issue. We need to find ways to manage waste and to generate energy without relying on diminishing and increasingly expensive supplies of polluting fossil fuels. Sending trash to landfills is clearly not the best solution. But we have better options than landfills and incineration, starting with reducing the amount of waste we produce. Through education and regulation, we can reduce obvious sources and divert more compostable, recyclable and reusable materials away from the dump. It’s simply wasteful to incinerate it.

It would be far better to sort trash into organics, recyclables and products that require careful disposal. We could then divert these different streams to minimize our waste impacts and produce new commodities. Organics used in biomass energy systems could help offset fossil fuel use while creating valuable supplies of fertilizers. Diversion and recycling lessen the need to extract new resources and disrupt the environment while creating more value and jobs. That’s a win all around!

Dr. David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author, and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation.

The economics of enhanced landfill mining: private and societal performance drivers

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Trash To Cash: Mining Landfills For Energy & Profit

Trash To Cash: Mining Landfills For Energy & Profit
A Belgian company is working on removing the raw materials from dumps, making both energy and building materials out of them, & then redeveloping the land.
50 miles east of Brussels, next to an old coal mine, lies a festering stinkhole that few people ever visit, & most people would rather forget about. Dating from the 1960s, the Remo Milieubeheer landfill at Houthalen-Hechteren is a typical dump full of industrial waste & household garbage–16.5 million tons of it in all.
Eventually, after a complex, multi-phase process called “Closing the Circle,” he hopes to turn the site back to nature. What’s more, Laevers thinks Houthalen-Hechteren could be the first of many such projects around the world. “We really believe this concept is the future, & that we can all benefit from it,” he says.
Machiels has formed a joint venture with Advanced Plasma Power, a U.K. energy-to-waste company that converts the non-recyclable residue into a mixture of clean-burning natural gas–which generates electricity for 100,000 homes–& a building material called Plasmarok.
He has been contacted by people from Chile, Belgium, Bulgaria, Hungary,& Romania, all wanting to find out how they might adapt the project for their own landfills.
“Everywhere in the world, people are starting to realize the potential from mining landfills,” he says


The economics of enhanced landfill mining: private and societal performance drivers”

Why not in Hong Kong too ?

South China Morning Post

Published on South China Morning Post (

Home > Lunch with Carrie Lam? Expect plenty of waste

Lunch with Carrie Lam? Expect plenty of waste

Wednesday, 11 September, 2013, 12:00am

NewsHong Kong


Gary Cheung

Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor is expected to lobby for support to expand the city’s three landfills when she hosts a lunch today for leaders of the district councils where the tips are located.

The chief secretary has invited chairmen of councils in Tuen Mun, Yuen Long, Sai Kung and North District to join her for lunch at her home on The Peak. Lam has been co-ordinating the administration’s efforts over the past few months to rally support for the controversial move. Tuen Mun chairman Lau Wong-fat said he would reiterate his call for the government to scrap its landfill expansion plans. “Two months after the Legislative Council Finance Committee deferred the plan to extend the Tuen Mun landfill, the government has yet to come up with any concrete proposals to mitigate the negative environmental impact of landfills,” he said.

Lau, who is also chairman of the Heung Yee Kuk, representing the interests of indigenous New Territories residents, said the government was all talk when it came to easing the pollution of the tips. “Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying said in July Tuen Mun residents are owed something for putting up with this polluting landfill … But what has been done to compensate us?” he said. Plans to extend the Tuen Mun and Ta Kwu Ling landfills were deferred in July. That was a month after the Tseung Kwan O expansion plan was withdrawn by Legco’s public works subcommittee amid strong opposition.

So Sai-chi, chairman of North District, said he expected the landfills plan would be among the issues discussed at today’s lunch. So said he supported the Ta Kwu Ling extension provided the government offered effective measures to mitigate its impact. “Our district should take into account the overall interests of Hong Kong residents,” So said.

Sai Kung chairman Ng Sze-fuk and Yuen Long chairman Leung Che-cheung were also invited to the lunch. The government plans to reapply for funding to expand the landfills next year. Separately, 22 Sai Kung councillors backed a motion to censure colleague Christine Fong Kwok-shan, who they say raised funds illegally in the campaign against the Tseung Kwan O plan.


Tuen Mun landfill

Source URL (retrieved on Sep 11th 2013, 7:23am):


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