The Emma Maersk vessel was loaded down with Chinese-made Christmas gifts when she departed for Europe but when the world's largest container ship returned to her home port she carried a less jolly cargo…nearly 200,000 tons of foreign garbage.
Much of it was dumped on Lianjiao, a village in Nanhai District in the city of Foshan, Guangdong Province, leaving local authorities with no option but to get tough on the local enterprises that accepted the waste.
"We’re still investigating who imported this garbage," said Huang Songhua, vice-director of the Nanhai Environmental Protection Bureau.
Lianjiao is already home to about 200,000 tons of waste plastic and 500,000 tons of waste paper and cardboard from both overseas and home. The quality of its air and water has declined because of pollutants from more than 400 local garbage recycling and processing plants in the area.
"Ninety percent of them (the recycling and processing plants) are running without licenses and they’re processing collected garbage inappropriately by just burning it without separating it," Huang said.
And the damage is severe.
"The land and water are so polluted that it would take over 100 years to rehabilitate them," said He Pinjing, director of solid waste institute of Tongji University. "It’s already a major headache to handle our own waste. How are we supposed to accommodate overseas waste?"
In an attempt to prevent the situation from deteriorating further, the Nanhai government recently ordered all garbage recyclers and processors in Lianjiao and six other adjacent villages to cease operations before January 18.
According to a CCTV report, the government, in conjunction with the local security bureau and fire department, has set up monitoring stations at all points of entry into Nanhai to bar any vehicles carrying waste plastic from entering the district. The plastic is one of the major sources of pollution in the district.
"The waste plastic recycling business will be terminated in Nanhai," said district Vice-Director Feng Yongkang. Enforcement of the ban will involve a several measures.
"Plants found operating after January 18 will be forced to shut down. Those running without licenses or are unqualified will be banned immediately," a government official said to reporters. "All of the garbage left at Lianjiao will be sent to a local environmentally friendly electricity plant to be burned to generate electricity."
Choked with the black smoke that pours from the chimneys of its garbage plants and surrounded by rivers that have been blackened by pollution, Lianjiao has processed more than 200,000 tons of garbage per year, over the past 20 years. The volume of its daily trade in garbage is nearly 750 tons making it the heart of Nanhai's waste plastic recycling industry.
(China Daily January 18, 2007)