Composting Takes a Bite Out of Beijing Waste

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Appropriately in time for the worm moon, so named because it arrives in tandem with air and soil temperatures warm enough to permit earthworms to come to the surface, is a story about composting and other creative urban waste initiatives underway in Beijing.

the earthworms up to
the surface. Worm Moon,
Crow Moon, Full Sap Moon,
wake us up once more.

First is a pilot program in one Beijing community that allows residents to trade earthworm waste for organic vegetables. Local NGO Global Village of Beijing arranged the dirt-for-food terms of trade with a local organic farm, and plans to expand the reach of the project over time. Unlike the variety of worms most common in the US and elsewhere, those in China are only about a half inch long. And red, naturally.

In another part of the city, trash is literally stewing! An organic waste disposal station, outfitted with microbiological bacteria, has been decomposing waste and churning out fertilizer in northwest Beijing for the last three years. The installations of at least two more organic waste stations have already been planned, though municipal officials have offered no definite time line for completion. So far, the lone garbage guzzler has processed over ten thousand tons of waste, feeding nearly 100 local fruit and vegetable gardens. And you thought table scraps were only for the dogs?

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Olympics Inspired Green Roofs say ‘yum’ to compost too

Beijing’s green roofs also hope to capitalize on the nutrient-rich feed. Back in 2003, the city pledged to achieve 45 percent green coverage in time for the 2008 Olympics, and apparently outdid themselves with a government-reported 52.1 percent green coverage in Beijing by the end of 2008. As green roofs increasingly populate Beijing, and add another set of ecological benefits, the supply of homegrown nutrient-rich soil becomes ever important.

Though both projects offer nice illustrations of how to promote sustainability in a low-cost, community level context, while helping bridge the at times hostile divide between rural and urban in China, they are still in early stages of development and their impact is a drop in the bucket when compared against Beijing’s growing waste stream.

ChinUsa: Waste growth outpaces eco-efforts

A recent article in state-owned news source, China Daily, highlighted the severe problem of Beijing’s growing waste. Currently, Beijing produces 18,400 tons of garbage every day, of which its disposal capacity is only 56 percent, according to Municipal Administration Commission figures. Moreover, Beijing’s trash is growing eight percent annually, the Commission reported. By comparison, New York City, notorious for inadequate waste management, tosses 12,000 tons per day. The two cities have comparable municipal populations.

Savings from composting efforts, says the Commission, both from households and local stations as well as a nearby industrial composting plant, currently represent less than 10 percent of Beijing’s total garbage. Thus, within a year’s time, Beijing’s total trash will have grown more than the amount offset by composting facilities.

A good beginning, Beijing, but in order to make sustainability initaitves pay off you’re gonna need much more than a red army of hungry worms to contain a waste stream that steadily marches on.

MORE Planetwide Enviro Crisis Solutions, Global Warming, China & The Good Ol’ US of A: Go ChinUSa!

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