Waste not want not proves golden for the early birds
Shanghai Daily news
Rubbish disposal, stereotyped as a dirty and demeaning industry, is now
becoming a potential "gold mine" in cities.
With china's WTO commitments to
opening the sector up in 2007, the industry is attracting investors from both
home and abroad.
China's rapid pace of urbanization creates a huge demand for
more effective rubbish disposal measures. People's growing awareness of
environmental protection also requires the process to be safer and
However, even in Shanghai, one of China's most modern cities,
landfilling was the major way to treat domestic rubbish until just a few years
Landfilling involves placing waste in a hole in the ground and covering
it with soil. The relatively primitive method uses large areas of land and
produces pollutants including toxic water and gas from the rotten
Shanghai laogang Waste Disposal Center located in Nanhui Area has
served as the place to treat most of the city's rubbish for decades. Although
the center has undergone several phases of projects to reduce pollution, people
who have visited the center still depict it as Mordor, the black land, for the
dirty look and stinking smell.
City cleaners used to collect the waste and
ship it to the center. The toxic water from the waste unavoidably dripped along
the way, even into the Huangpu River.
There are better ways to cope with
rubbish. When the industry changes from a government monopolized sector to a
commercialized one, the chance for major reforms comes.
Group, or SEG, has been created against the backdrop of such a reform. Launched
in 2004, the group integrates most of the city's rubbish disposal assets and
initiates aggressive steps to absorb capital and technology.
will play the role as a service buyer and a supervisor. In the future, the
government selects the service and pays for it. Foreseeably, many global and
private competitors will swarm into the sector and fight for a piece in this
special 'gold mine'," said Xu Liang, a SEG's senior manager.
Xu said the
price for the service has not been decided. But the government used to spend
billions of yuan every year to keep the city clean and clear. Besides, if
rubbish is disposed with scientific measures, it can generate more proceeds from
by-products such as energy and other useful materials.
The seg built an
incinerator as a better way to dispose of the rubbish. Incineration means to
burn the waste. It can generate electricity. The energy generated by two tons of
rubbish equals to that of one ton of coal.
A huge market
A site in
Shanghai Jiangqiao near Jiading Area is one such project. Launched in 2004 with
a daily capacity of treating 1,500 tons of domestic rubbish, the site can
produce nearly 500,000 kilo-watts hour of electricity every day.
For a city
like Shanghai, which is short of electricity in peak consumption seasons, this
could serve as timely help. On the other side, the remains of the rubbish can be
made into raw material such as bricks.
The 950-million-yuan (US$117 million)
site represents the start of SEG's expansion. Another incinerator, claimed to be
Asia's largest, is now under construction in Shanghai's southwestern Minhang
It is expected to start production in 2008, with a capacity of dealing
with 3,000 tons of rubbish daily.
The seg also adopts mechanical biological
treatments for rubbish disposal. The site will be completed next year. Other
projects include several transfer centers in Shanghai. The blueprint rolled out
shows a conglomerate with a complete chain for rubbish disposal, including the
collection, transfer, landfill, incineration and biological treatment.
far, the group has invested nearly 5 billion yuan in various projects and the
group expects the amount to reach 20 billion in two years.
"It is an industry
with huge capital investment at the beginning," said Xu. "But the return will be
stable and lucrative."
China has been left far behind in the use of
technology for rubbish disposal. The SEG isn't powerful enough to master all the
advanced technology in this area themselves. It will team up with several global
companies including the United States' Golden State Holding Corp, Italy's
Impregilo Group, Singapore's Sembcorp Environment Management Pte Ltd and Hong
Kong Biomax Environmental Technology Ltd. These companies are strong in the
"They choose to establish joint ventures with us because
it helps them to obtain market shares in advance," said Xu. "Another reason
could be China's rubbish content is different from many other countries. Their
technology needs some local adjustments."
In xu's view, the global companies
contribute their technology, sell their
Facilities and gain market shares, a
perfect illustration for a win-win solution to China's shortage of
The shanghai market of course can no longer satisfy the SEG. The
group has stepped out of the city and stretched its antennae to the national
Last year, the SEG won the bid to build and operate a
473-million-yuan rubbish disposal site in Chengdu of Sichuan Province. The group
has also reached places in Guangdong, Jiangsu, Shanxi and Zhejiang
"If you win a bid for rubbish disposal, you are destined to be a
long-time partner. It shows the importance of grabbing the chance at the very
beginning." said Xu.
The early bird can catch the worm, as the old saying
But in so large a market like China, it seems one bird is far from
Shanghai produces more than 15,000 tons of domestic rubbish a day.
About 220 cities have been surrounded by "rubbish hills."
114m tons of domestic rubbish every year.