City with nowhere to throw
With the rapid advancement of urbanization, the amount of garbage generated in cities is increasing. At present, the total amount of urban waste has accounted for more than 90% of the total global waste, becoming a major global “public hazard” today.
According to figures released by the State Environmental Protection Administration, among the solid wastes that cause environmental pollution in China, domestic waste and industrial waste are the largest. At present, the annual output of domestic waste is about 200 million tons, and the industrial waste is 800 million tons, including nearly 1,000 tons of hazardous waste such as chemicals. Due to the lack of effective treatment, China’s waste stock has exceeded 6 billion tons over the years.
As China becomes the world’s factory, it is also becoming the world’s “garbage dump”. According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme, the world generates 20 to 50 million tons of electronic equipment waste every year. It is currently the fastest growing solid waste in the world, 80% of which is shipped to Asia and 90% of which is discarded in China. In recent years, China accommodates more than 70% of the world’s e-waste every year, and has become the world’s largest dumping ground for e-waste. The amount of e-waste in China will also increase rapidly at a rate of 5% to 10% per year. E-waste contains more than 700 kinds of substances such as lead, cadmium and lithium, 50% of which are harmful to human body. If it is not handled properly during the recycling process, it will seriously pollute the environment.
At present, the annual output of urban waste in China exceeds 200 million tons, and the annual growth rate is 8% to 9%. Over the years, the amount of garbage dumped in cities has exceeded 5 billion tons. There are more than 30 cities in the country with more than 10 million tons of garbage dumped. Nearly 200 cities have no suitable places to dump garbage. Two-thirds of the country’s cities are surrounded by garbage.
The output of urban waste in the country increases by 10% annually on average, while the removal volume only accounts for 40% to 50% of the output. More than 50% of the garbage is piled up in some dead corners of the city or even in public places. A large number of untreated industrial waste and domestic waste are piled up in the suburbs and other places, becoming a serious source of secondary pollution, affecting environmental safety and human health. In addition, some garbage and sewage seeped into the ground from the suburbs, seriously polluting the groundwater and damaging vegetable fields and orchards in the suburbs.
In addition to open-air stacking, the current methods of domestic waste disposal in Chinese cities include sanitary landfills. This method avoids the problems caused by open-air stacking. The disadvantages are that the landfill site built covers a large area, the use time is short (usually about 10 years), the cost is high, and the recyclable resources in the garbage are wasted. The second is incineration. Although this method reduces the volume of garbage by 50% to 95%, it burns up recyclable resources, releases toxic gases such as dioxin, mercury vapor in batteries, etc., and produces toxic and harmful slag and dust. The third is composting, a method that requires people to separate organic waste from other waste, but it has great prospects.
As the center of economy and life, cities discharge a large amount of sewage. In addition, the treatment level of urban sewage in China is generally not high, and the situation of urban water environment is very severe.
The 2004 Red List of Endangered Species released by the International Federation for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources lists China as one of the five countries in the world whose biodiversity is most threatened. It is estimated that 3,000 of the 30,000 species of higher organisms are endangered and extinct, and the extinct wild animals include high-nosed antelope, white-rumped langur, porpoise deer, Xinjiang tiger, red-necked crane, and white-handed gibbons. China ranks first in the world in endangered conifer species (34 species, of which 26 are endemic to China); endangered mammal species (82 species, of which 30 species are endemic to China) ranks third in the world after Indonesia and India; the endangered species of birds (85 species, 17 of which are endemic to China) are second only to Indonesia, Brazil and Peru, and the fourth place in the world with Colombia. China has a total of 123 species listed in the “Red Book” of endangered animals in the world, and 277 species of first- and second-level protected animals in the national protection list.
The reasons that lead to the reduction of wild animals and plants in China are, first, inappropriate development, second, indiscriminate hunting, hunting and mining, and third, environmental pollution. The protection of China’s animal and plant resources is urgent and should be put on the agenda of governments at all levels.