What actions can China’s citizens take to curb pollution?

Filed in Blog by on April 11, 2017 1 Comment
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air pollution in chinaOver on our Facebook Group, we have an international audience of people wanting to do their bit.

I’m constantly educated and amazed at the different situations readers from across the globe are dealing with.

Whether it’s a lack of recycling facilities, over-packaged goods or harsh climatic conditions, we’re all  trying to do our best in seemingly difficult situations.

A few months ago I was reading about air pollution.

Apart from a high pollen count in the summer, air quality isn’t really something I have to think much about.

It’s scary to think that the air that you breathe or the water that you drink could become a scarce commodity. But for the citizens of China, this is a threat that they face every day. The problem is so bad that businesses from around the world are actually selling fresh air to the middle class in China.

The World Health Organisation reported over 1 million deaths in China as a result of people being affected by air pollution and the scary thing is this number doesn’t account for deaths from other pollutants. How China handles their pollution problem will be a lesson for the rest of the world to learn from, if they fail to look after the Earth’s natural resources.

China must implement solutions to tackle carbon emissions.

China faces a steep challenge. The pollution problem is bad and they must also get 1 billion of their citizens to implement an eco-friendly solution. Since ratifying the Paris Agreement, the nation has taken steps to minimise the amount of carbon emissions caused from coal-fired energy production.

According to a report from Reuters, China invested $103 billion in renewable energy projects in 2015. In that same year, China led the world in the production and use of wind power and smart solar grid technologies, which accounts for approximately 20% of the country’s total energy production.

Additionally, the rollout of energy-efficient equipment such as LED lights and smart eco-friendly devices help reduce energy demands, thus reducing the carbon emissions output.

Partner with ethical recyclers when disposing of electrical products.

Electrical waste (also known as ewaste) is a major problem that severely affects the environment. The most infamous city for ewaste is Guiyu, whose citizens collect and harvest materials from electrical trash and then dump the waste in the local environment.

The cities residents fail to see the long-term impact of their actions and focus instead on the money that they can earn, which can be as little as $1 USD a day. The harvested materials such as gold or copper are then sold for profits to another buyer.

Guiyu was once a farming town, but today it looks like an apocalyptic nightmare. Greenpeace describes the town’s ecosystem as “non-existent” because lead and other chemicals have contaminated the city’s waterways so much, that the water is undrinkable. In fact, the town has to ship in freshwater from neighbouring towns.

Some of the biggest ewaste culprits are used computer monitors, whose lead filled screens are dumped at the local landfill sites. Over time, the chemical elements contaminate the ground, increasing its toxicity and kill the ecosystem. Additionally, used ink cartridges are harvested for their metals, plastics and inks; while the water residue gets dumped into local waterways.

China must tackle its landfill problems promptly.

Landfill mountains are another significant problem for China as they struggle to dispose waste ethically. In the city of Wujiang, which is situated 100km west of Shanghai, the Wujian plant is designed to burn 1500 tons of trash every day. This plant is a part of an experiment, which will see the heat energy from the trash harvested and used, although it is still early days and the effect of the carbon emissions from this waste disposal method is still unknown.

It’s clear to see that action is needed to preserve China’s most valuable resources. Should the country’s citizens lack vision, the country could experience an apocalyptic end in the next 15 years. There are promising signs that the country will improve its environmental practices, but it must be done quickly.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

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  1. Darren Woodiwiss says:

    Energy from waste is a desperate measure, you end up emitting man made dioxins, of which there are no safe limits, and with piles of toxic ash when you should have recycled or not have produced the waste in the first place.

    China was/is a destination for the badly collected and sorted (single stream Co-mingled which was technically illegal under the EU waste framework directive but the UK Gov negotiated an exemption so Councils could save money on collection costs) plastics from the UK.

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