As China’s economy has boomed in recent decades, the amount of garbage and solid waste generated in the country has soared from roughly 30 million tons in 1980 to 200 million tons today, most of it winding up in ill-tended landfills around major cities. Those landfills are at or near capacity, spawning illegal waste dumping and burning. The World Bank estimates that by 2025, China’s solid waste generation will double to more than 500 million tons annually.
In Shenzhen, a teeming industrial city of 13 million near Hong Kong, the volume of solid waste has skyrocketed from 50 tons a day in 1979 to 15,000 tons today — a 300-fold increase. The region is expected to reach its landfill capacity by 2021.The waste management problem has become so acute in Shenzhen that in December 2015 a mountain of construction debris and trash collapsed and cascaded into industrial and residential areas, killing at least 69 people.
But those protesting the Shenzhen East Waste-to-Energy Plant — which will produce enough electricity to power roughly 100,000 apartments — fear the facility will emit high levels of dioxins and other toxins.