Burn Plastic for More Space

At night, the streets are usually filled with people having dinner at the street food vendors and restaurants. There’s a lack of garbage bins and the ones that do exist are usually filled quickly. This causes most of the trash to end up on the sidewalks and streets. In the morning, this is cleaned up by a dozen or so street cleaners. Each of them carries a large broom sweeping up the trash from the previous night. The pile of trash is then gathered up in several areas of the street and everything from plastic bottles, bags, leaves, and paper. After everything has been gathered up, it’s burned right on the streets. Every morning, there’s the same scent on the streets outside from the burning smell.

Burning Trash

Burning Trash

The smell is intoxicating. I’m always putting my mouth on  my sleeve while I pass the smoke. The piles are always on the same spot as it was the night before adding more to the ashes. Besides the obvious of being harmful to the environment, it is harmful to our health. China has a growing issue of producing toxic emissions, from dioxin to mercury. These can travel across the globe causing a global issue. This doesn’t include the number of factory incinerators in China either.

Why are they doing this?

The New York Times published an article over a year ago with the same concern. China is now the world’s largest producer of household garbage. Makes sense with over 1.4 billion people. This is creating issues in having enough landfill space. According to that article, landfills would run out of space in China in just five years unless they make alternatives hence the action of building more incinerators. The garbage picked up on the streets in my town doesn’t even make it to the landfill or incinerators because it costs money to even have someone pick up the trash to bring it anywhere else. Only other option is self burning it. I’ve seen the same in other cities in China.

Burning Trash

Burning Trash

In my opinion, China seems to be on track for an economy of doing things that work in the present but take no regard for the future. They are striving by building for what makes them strong right now and disregarding the future. China does have issues that no other nation needs to worry about though. This is a country with thousands of years of history with a population bigger than anyone else has. Will this get better or worse? I’m hoping better.

31 Comments

  1. Kirsty_NoPlaceToBe on December 2, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    It’s a difficult one – When we were visiting China I kept thinking is China just going through what the West were in the industrial revolution? I’m sure in the Victorian period in the UK things like this happened, and most of the time there was more concentration of the present than on the future – can we stop other developing countries doing what we did in the past?
    On the other hand we didn’t know what we do now…. and that burning things or burning lots and lots of coal caused lots of pollution and other effects that will be felt in a generations time.

    • Michael on December 4, 2010 at 1:33 am

      This is a very good point. The west was horrible with trash during the industrial revolution and we quickly learned from it. I’m hoping this side of the world learns quickly because there are millions more people contributing to this than it was in the past for the west.

  2. Kirsty_NoPlaceToBe on December 3, 2010 at 12:24 am

    It’s a difficult one – When we were visiting China I kept thinking is China just going through what the West were in the industrial revolution? I’m sure in the Victorian period in the UK things like this happened, and most of the time there was more concentration of the present than on the future – can we stop other developing countries doing what we did in the past?
    On the other hand we didn’t know what we do now…. and that burning things or burning lots and lots of coal caused lots of pollution and other effects that will be felt in a generations time.

    • Michael on December 4, 2010 at 2:33 am

      This is a very good point. The west was horrible with trash during the industrial revolution and we quickly learned from it. I’m hoping this side of the world learns quickly because there are millions more people contributing to this than it was in the past for the west.

  3. Thomas Travels Indonesia on December 3, 2010 at 12:52 am

    Garbage that contains plastic is truly a problem throughout the world. Living in Indonesia everything you buy gets a plastic bag. Some of the plastic gets thrown into the streams and during the Rainy Season it washes out into the beautiful Indian Ocean and lands on the beaches. I know places like Toronto hasve outlawed plastic. Great idea. We need to continue to think about our future and not dump our trash onto our future.

    • Michael on December 4, 2010 at 1:31 am

      Same here in China. Everything gets a plastic bag. Banning it would be a great idea but I don’t think it’d be controllable with so many people living here.

  4. Thomas Travels Indonesia on December 3, 2010 at 1:52 am

    Garbage that contains plastic is truly a problem throughout the world. Living in Indonesia everything you buy gets a plastic bag. Some of the plastic gets thrown into the streams and during the Rainy Season it washes out into the beautiful Indian Ocean and lands on the beaches. I know places like Toronto hasve outlawed plastic. Great idea. We need to continue to think about our future and not dump our trash onto our future.

    • Michael on December 4, 2010 at 2:31 am

      Same here in China. Everything gets a plastic bag. Banning it would be a great idea but I don’t think it’d be controllable with so many people living here.

  5. KG on December 3, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Trash is one of those concepts that blows my mind. That and massive fishing operations (among a couple of other things). We all have our faults, and there are changes each of us could make that would positively affect the world and our environment–changes about which we’re not even aware, in many cases. What terrifies me is our general ignorance as a species. I just hope we can get one rolling ball to slow down and another ball rolling faster before everything becomes entirely unmanageable. You know?

    • Michael on December 4, 2010 at 1:29 am

      Absolutely. It’s unavoidable that we are all contributing to the trash but small changes can make a huge difference. If China continues this, our planet will be going downhill faster than we imagined.

  6. KG on December 3, 2010 at 8:55 am

    Trash is one of those concepts that blows my mind. That and massive fishing operations (among a couple of other things). We all have our faults, and there are changes each of us could make that would positively affect the world and our environment–changes about which we’re not even aware, in many cases. What terrifies me is our general ignorance as a species. I just hope we can get one rolling ball to slow down and another ball rolling faster before everything becomes entirely unmanageable. You know?

    • Michael on December 4, 2010 at 2:29 am

      Absolutely. It’s unavoidable that we are all contributing to the trash but small changes can make a huge difference. If China continues this, our planet will be going downhill faster than we imagined.

  7. tomschinablog on December 4, 2010 at 6:46 am

    I think part of the reason they have so much trash is that they conduct so much business outside. There’s so many kiosks and food vendors outside that all the trash just sort of ends up on the ground.

    • Michael on December 5, 2010 at 2:15 am

      Yeah and it’s picked up but does it really need to be burned after?

  8. tomschinablog on December 4, 2010 at 7:46 am

    I think part of the reason they have so much trash is that they conduct so much business outside. There’s so many kiosks and food vendors outside that all the trash just sort of ends up on the ground.

    • Michael on December 5, 2010 at 3:15 am

      Yeah and it’s picked up but does it really need to be burned after?

  9. Kevin on December 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    There are a number of countries where plastic bags are no longer allowed, lets hope that plastics in general will follow. The US is way behind the curve on this.

    • Michael on December 6, 2010 at 1:39 am

      If plastic bags were to get banned, I think it’ll take awhile to catch on. The Chinese are very accustomed to using them for just about everything. I’d imagine telling millions of people not to use plastic bags would be difficult in impoverished areas.

  10. Kevin on December 5, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    There are a number of countries where plastic bags are no longer allowed, lets hope that plastics in general will follow. The US is way behind the curve on this.

    • Michael on December 6, 2010 at 2:39 am

      If plastic bags were to get banned, I think it’ll take awhile to catch on. The Chinese are very accustomed to using them for just about everything. I’d imagine telling millions of people not to use plastic bags would be difficult in impoverished areas.

  11. enrolled agent course on December 5, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    There is no doubt that they would accumulate that much trash and while it might take a while before people would realize the importance of sorting their garbage hopefully the government can come up with an alternative. I just had a million questions in my mind after reading this article. This is indeed an eye opener.

  12. enrolled agent course on December 5, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    There is no doubt that they would accumulate that much trash and while it might take a while before people would realize the importance of sorting their garbage hopefully the government can come up with an alternative. I just had a million questions in my mind after reading this article. This is indeed an eye opener.

  13. Natalie on December 7, 2010 at 11:22 am

    i’m a bit late on this, but i love the thought and topic!

    last december during the copenhagen summit on climate change, china was one of (if not the) first to jump up and say, ‘hey! we’ll lead the way!’ on controlling toxic emissions and poor environmental practices. of course, they also wanted to self-regulate and not have anyone nosing around in what they were “doing” to make those changes so the improvements would be unverifiable. in my opinion, they really destroyed any ground which could be made during what was a very important summit.

    that aside, i think as someone who’s concerned about the garbage, you kind of have to take control of what you generate. carry what you can and tell them you don’t want a plastic bag. those polyester or nylon grocery bags collapse down into nothing, weigh nothing and can be washed. use that instead. it may not be a canvas bag, but it’s infinitely better than getting plastic bags everywhere. we carry those and chopsticks everywhere and reduce as much as possible.

    as far as self burning, i have two thoughts. the first, the smoke from burning plastic is incredibly toxic. i wouldn’t go anywhere near it. second, it’s my personal opinion, but it seems like condoning through emulating and i think burning trash is really bad for the air/environment. i wouldn’t.

  14. Natalie on December 7, 2010 at 12:22 pm

    i’m a bit late on this, but i love the thought and topic!

    last december during the copenhagen summit on climate change, china was one of (if not the) first to jump up and say, ‘hey! we’ll lead the way!’ on controlling toxic emissions and poor environmental practices. of course, they also wanted to self-regulate and not have anyone nosing around in what they were “doing” to make those changes so the improvements would be unverifiable. in my opinion, they really destroyed any ground which could be made during what was a very important summit.

    that aside, i think as someone who’s concerned about the garbage, you kind of have to take control of what you generate. carry what you can and tell them you don’t want a plastic bag. those polyester or nylon grocery bags collapse down into nothing, weigh nothing and can be washed. use that instead. it may not be a canvas bag, but it’s infinitely better than getting plastic bags everywhere. we carry those and chopsticks everywhere and reduce as much as possible.

    as far as self burning, i have two thoughts. the first, the smoke from burning plastic is incredibly toxic. i wouldn’t go anywhere near it. second, it’s my personal opinion, but it seems like condoning through emulating and i think burning trash is really bad for the air/environment. i wouldn’t.

  15. Nostrabellafamilia on December 8, 2010 at 10:46 am

    Do they have any recycling factories? I’m sure big money can be made if one is to open

    • Michael on December 9, 2010 at 9:05 am

      Old habits of the people need to changed I think. Of course there are recycling factories. There’s 1.4 billion people. There are more recycling factories here than probably the US and Europe put together.

  16. Nostrabellafamilia on December 8, 2010 at 11:46 am

    Do they have any recycling factories? I’m sure big money can be made if one is to open

    • Michael on December 9, 2010 at 10:05 am

      Old habits of the people need to changed I think. Of course there are recycling factories. There’s 1.4 billion people. There are more recycling factories here than probably the US and Europe put together.

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