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Solid waste in China - statistics & facts

As the most populous country in the world, China accounted for over 15 percent of the global municipal solid waste volume with 18 percent of global population, which is the biggest share in the world. On the other hand, as it is for many other parameters for China, the ranking shuffled totally when the unit would be switched to per capita. In terms of daily per capita municipal solid waste generation in the world, United states ranked top with 2.58 kilograms, followed by many other developed countries such as Canada and Australia.

Since 1990, the amount of disposed waste in China had surged over three-fold in just three decades. In addition to the domestically produced garbage, the economy of waste importing did not help with the dire situation of waste disposal for China. Despite an introduction of banning the 24 kinds of waste from other countries, China was receiving on average two million metric tons of solid waste each month in 2018, which was worth around 1.5 billion U.S. dollars. This year, Chinese government had announced a target of zero imported waste, which seemed to have lessened the pressure of waste management in the country.

Traditionally, sanitary landfill is the most common of waste handling in China, accounting for over half of the trash, while incineration would be slightly more common in villages due to a smaller scale and less supervision than in the urban area. Due to increasingly tighter remaining capacity of landfills, China also started utilizing incineration to generate electricity. Since 2010, the energy capacity of renewable municipal waste had multiplied itself to over six GW in 2019. In 2018, the amount of energy generated from renewable municipal waste amounted to approximately 23 GWh. Along with the technological advancement, the rate of capacity utilization of waste incineration for energy was however forecasted to drop from 79 percent in 2016 to 76 percent by 2021.

In early 2019, an exceptionally tight obligatory waste recycling policy was introduced in Shanghai, being one of the pilot cities in waste recycling. Such habit was believed to take time for Chinese citizens to get used to, since the concept was still relatively novel in China. This policy will hopefully ease the stress on landfill sites in China, and help the country in easing the dire situation of waste management and the quality of environment in the country.


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