SHANGHAI’S bid to become an environmentally friendly city includes plans to step up the processing and recycling of green waste like fallen leaves, mown grass and dead tree branches.
Attaining recycling goals still faces some obstacles, like a shortage of available land for facilities, a lack of government tax incentives to encourage more companies to operate in the industry and insufficient subsidies to help loss-making recyclers.
The city’s parks, greenbelts, roadside trees and residential complexes generate about 600,000 tons of organic waste a year. The city wants to compost and mulch the waste for recycled use in parklands and greenbelts, according to the Shanghai Greenery Management Station, an arm of the Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau. Some of the waste can be turned into biofuel.
“Fallen leaves and dead wood returning to their roots is the best way of recycling green waste,” said Li Xiangmao, a senior engineer at the station.
Compost made from the waste helps improve soil and plant growth, and it is also safer than fertilizers recycled from domestic garbage and sludge, said station officials. Wood chips from dead branches can be used as mulch to prevent water evaporation and curb dust pollution.
There are some processing sites for green waste in districts such as Jing’an, Baoshan, Minhang, and the Pudong New Area. Shanghai Botanical Garden, Shanghai Chenshan Botanical Garden and Gongqing Forest Park also recycle such waste.
The construction of an underground processing site was recently completed on Changhua Road in the Jing’an District, and a new 5-million-yuan (US$806,451) site in the Baoshan District will soon go into operation. A site in the Minhang District is under planning.
“There is sound insulation facility inside the new Jing’an crushing site to avoid neighborhood complaints,” said Zhang Dongxian, an official with the Jing’an District Greenery and Public Sanitation Bureau. “The underground site did cost more than it would have above ground.”
Shanghai has about 90 machines to crush green waste at present.
Still, development of greenery recycling facilities in the city faces some difficulties, said Xu Xiaobo, deputy director of the station. The major obstacles are land shortages and absence of tax incentives, he said.
There are no sites zoned specially for processing green wastes. As a result, a site in Xinqiao Town in the Songjiang District, one of the earliest green waste processing sites in Shanghai, will have to move after its current lease expires.
Green waste processing factories need to be located away from residential sites because of the noise of crushing and the odor of compost. Some districts that wanted to build or expand sites have been stymied by land restrictions, according to station officials.
It would be advantageous to have one large site where a number of processing factories could be located, engineer Li said.
Green waste recycling plants get no incentive tax breaks, he added, and compost from green waste has not been included in the city’s official list of “environmentally friendly” products. In addition, there are no quality standards set on the compost made from green waste.
Some districts do offer subsidies but they fall short of what is needed to operate an effective citywide recycling effort. The cost of crushing a ton of green waste is more than 200 yuan.
“These enterprises face great financial pressure without adequate subsidies,” said Fang Yanxing, an engineer at the station. “As a result, enterprises are not enthusiastic about collecting and mulching green waste.”
Since 2009, green waste has been excluded from collection by the city’s sanitation system. Without adequate recycling in place, the waste sometimes piles up in residential complexes, creating potential fire hazards.
A green waste processing plant inside the Shanghai Botanical Garden, with an annual capacity of 30,000 tons, is the largest in Shanghai. It also handles wastes from Huangpu, Xuhui, Changning and Minhang districts.
Li Bolong, director of the plant, said the facility is barely making ends meet after over 10 years of operation.
“We hope the government will give us some financial support,” Li said.
The factory has five crushing machines, including a new one bought from the US at a cost of about 3 million yuan.
“Machines made in China are not of good quality,” Li said. “They have small capacities and they easily break down.”
Xu, deputy director of the Greenery Management Station, said development will take time.
“The city’s green waste recycling is still in the initial stages, and crushing technologies and the quality of compost need to be improved,” he said. “We will continue to move in that direction.”