Waste incineration firm reports on pollution levels

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The amount of pollutants, including sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide, emitted from one of Beijing's two waste incineration plants is being released to the public in real time.

A large screen was this week established outside the 800 million yuan ($117 million) Gao'antun incineration plant in east Beijing's Chaoyang district to display the amount of toxins in the air. Dioxin, the major pollutant released from burning plastic and other garbage, was absent from the index.

The testing is carried out by the Environmental Engineering Group, which owns the plant and runs all waste treatment plants in Beijing. Emissions were this week all shown to be within safe limits.

The Gao'antun plant was launched in 2006, but its workload was reduced last year after complaints from locals about the smell. The government spent 1 million yuan trying to fix the problem last summer.

At full capacity, the plant burns 1,600 tons of waste every day. While authorities have not revealed how much rubbish the plant currently incinerates, officials said the plant is working at a reduced level.

"The bad smell is still there. Nothing has improved," said Zhao Li, a resident who lives near the facility.

The plant is located within two kilometers from several large commercial buildings. Authorities are planning to build low-cost apartments in the area.

Residents in the region have long complained about the smell and pollutants released from the 46,000 square meter waste treatment plant.

Environmental analysts said excessive dioxin from ill-managed plants in other areas of China could be linked to cancer in local residents.

Beijing's Vice-Mayor, Ji Lin, told China Daily in an earlier interview that authorities are concerned about the environmental impact caused by residents disposing 18,000 tons of garbage each day in the capital.

Ji said authorities have no plans to drop controversial waste incineration technology, despite public protests. The government will initially reduce, classify and recycle waste before incinerating the remainder, the official said.

Beijing has dropped its proposal to build a massive incineration power plant in north Beijing's Asuwei area. Instead, it has doubled its investment and plans to build an industrial waste treatment plant later this year that will focus more on recycling waste and less on burning it.

Last month, about 10 government officials and policy advisers from Beijing visited waste treatment facilities in Tokyo and other cities on a fact-finding trip. Huang Xiaoshan, a lawyer once arrested for protesting about the waste incineration plant near the Asuwei area, was among the participants.

The group suggested stricter rules for the operation of waste treatment facilities and improving the classification of garbage.

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