China produces approximately 300 million tons of waste annually, according to the World Bank. The country's waste problem has exponentially increased in part to its population of over 1.3 billion people, ranked highest in the world. The solution to China's waste predicament is to build the largest waste-to-energy plant in the world, in hopes of combating the growing issue of waste overflow and illegal dumping.
The first plant is expected to be up and running by 2020, and will be located in Shenzhen. The plant will be capable of burning 5,000 tons of waste daily, with 1/3 of the waste recycled into renewable energy. Measuring 66,000 square meters, the roof of the plant will be covered by 44,000 square meters of photovoltaic panels, which will be used to convert solar energy into direct current electricity. This plant will be one of 300 the Chinese government plans to build over the next four years. In comparison, by the end of 2015, the United States had 71 running waste-to-energy plants also manufacturing electricity in 20 states.
The Chinese government hopes these plants will also help prevent catastrophes similar to the landslide that took place in Shenzhen in December of 2015. The disaster started after a collapse of construction waste atop a hill burrowed into South China's Guangdong Province. The collapse resulted in a landslide that covered 380,000 square meters in three meters of mud and buried 33 buildings in the process. According to Shenzhen's deputy mayor, Liu Qingsheng, 91 people have remained missing as a result of this tragedy.
Though the Chinese government hopes to improve waste conditions by implementing new waste incinerators, a better solution will be needed in the future. In an interview by Tech Insider, Warren Karlenzig, an expert in urban sustainability explains, "One thing China can do is get a better handle on its pollution and waste and come up with better strategies for regulation." Energy-to-waste plants will aid problems of illegal dumping and overflowing landfills, however, burning 5,000 tons of waste daily will prove to be just as bad for the environment through release of CO2 emissions. Regardless of the number of waste-to-energy plants, China will eventually have to find more feasible solutions to cut back on pollution.