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As the rapid growth of the cities’ economy and population, the city scale has expanded, and the living standard of people increased in the 21th century. However, this is more likely to produce more cities’ solid wastes. In 2012, a two-day United Nations Conference stated that the waste management issues are more and more critical in the sustainability discussion (UN News, 2012). In the conference, waste experts in the global suggested to deal with the waste problem, and that might provide the opportunity to gain benefits from the mutual collaboration within the waste management process. On the other side, while cities around the world raised plenty of cities categories terms with the aim at achieving sustainable cities (Jong et al., 2015), waste management plays a vital role for promoting sustainability concept.
Refer to waste management, municipal solid waste management (MSWM) is one of its categories, which is produced by the domestic, industrial and commercial activity. The capture, delivery, and disposal of those solid waste have already become a difficulty for the states to solve (UNEP, 2005). The MSWM involves the activities about recycling, incineration, landfill, biotechnology, and other disposal solutions. Concerning the different development and policy context among the cities, the progress and reflection of the MSWM are various.
This study will firstly provide the MSWM status in two cities – Singapore and Guangzhou, China, and subsequently show the methods of collection, disposal for the solid waste in Singapore as well as the problem faced in Guangzhou. The reason for choosing Singapore and Guangzhou due to their high population density and similar social and economic situation, but Singapore has a significant outcome in MSWM while Guangzhou fails to achieve the apparent success. Besides, Guangzhou is my birthplace, and I had experience negative impact caused by the careless disposal of municipal waste. The objective of this study is to understand the MSWM in Singapore by going through its municipal policy guidance and implementation, then to discuss to what extent, Guangzhou can improve its MSWM with the implication from Singapore.
Waste Management Situation in Guangzhou
As a central economic city and first-tier city in Pearl River Delta, there are approximately 14.5 million population counted in 2017 while the capacity of the municipal waste shows its growing trend with the average increase rate at 7.12% from 2011 to 2015. Furthermore, in 2016, the size of municipal waste disposal raised to 18.8 thousand ton per day, which is 13.81% more than the capacity in 2015 (Ministry of Environmental Protection, 2017). Figure 1 is the statistical prediction of the trend for Guangzhou municipal waste.
Figure 1: Guangzhou Garbage Processing Statistics and Trend Prediction in Recent Years, 2018
Up to now, based on the statement in the document, namely, Planning for Prevention and Control of Solid Waste Pollution 2005-2015, the main approaches for MSWM in Guangzhou are Landfill-based aided by incineration due to lower input (Guangzhou Environmental Protection Bureau, 2005). There is eight domestic waste treatment facility in Guangzhou, which have to disposal 20 thousand tons per day (Fu et al., 2018). In recent year, the landfill area has overloaded due to an increasing number of municipal wastes produced. Take Xingfeng municipal waste landfill area as an example (see figure 2); this area was regarded as the biggest landfill in China as well as one of the largest in Asia when it established in 2002, with the expected disposal indicator at 3600 tons. Nevertheless, in the recent decade, the burden of waste disposal has multiplied as the rise of local waste generation quantity. Xingfeng bore nearly 80% of the total waste amount in Guangzhou central district. But up to the statistic in 2017, the disposal quantity has increased to 11 thousand tons, which is far more exceed than the designed disposal standard as Xingfeng established. As a result, Xingfeng cannot achieve its 40 service years, and it is forced to early retirement in May 2018 due to its overwhelming amount of municipal waste (Fu et al., 2018). According to Guangzhou Daily (2017), Xingfeng landfill area must be closing because the waste pile was difficult to settle, and it enters into a high-risk condition. A new emergency landfill, beside Xingfeng landfill, is in an intensive construction process. Except for the overload issue, there was also controversy over the further establishment of incinerators in Guangzhou. In 2009, the residents in Panyu district (located in South of Guangzhou) showed theirs disagree attitude toward planning an incinerator near their home, not only for the environmental effect and harmful to health but also the protest about the exclusion in the decision-making process when the government was planning the new site for incinerators. The government had to suspend the construction plan of Panyu district and seek another place for a new incinerator, but there are not much site choices due to the land shortage.
Figure 2: Xinfeng Landfill in Guangzhou, provided by Guangzhou Housing Net, Sohu News
For resolving the issue about the massive burden of municipal waste, Guangzhou has pushed several municipal policies to sort and treat those waste (Guangzhou Environmental Protection Bureau, 2005). Firstly, the government introduced the compulsory municipal waste sorting to improve waste collection stage. But refer to the current status, the citizen engagement and the transport system after sorting are insufficient. According to the investigation raised by Wu (2017), a sanitation worker stated that even though the communities required citizens to sort municipal waste, most of the citizens failed to complete the sorting stage, and he helped to sort the waste before waste delivery. Besides, most of the waste sorting bins (see figure 3) are only divided into recycling and non-recycle, which puzzled citizen with the categories. Secondly, Guangzhou pushes forward the integrated solid waste management, integrating the collection, transport, and resource recovery system. Each district organizes the daily waste collection for wastes. Each resident has a payment for 15 yuan per month for the public waste collection and city cleaning. However, Guangzhou collects near 50 million yuan monthly but cost 100 million yuan for waste management (Medina, 2011), which is not enough to cover the expenditure, so that government planned to increase the waste management revenue by bundling the fee with water and electricity payment. Thirdly, the government published a regulation in 2014, Interim Measures for the Administration of Restricting the Overpacking of Goods in Guangzhou, to reduce the excess package of commercial goods. Whereas the over-packaging of foods and soft drinks has been curbed, the healthcare product, tea, and alcoholic beverage remain an excessive severe package problem. In terms of the interview reported by Xinhua New’s correspondents (Zhou et al., 2017), as an optimal gift for the elder people and higher-level group, those health care products which is 4 times package volume more than the standard package, will be more welcoming and expensive because of “the sense of mystery”. As for the over-packaging problem, it is difficult to monitor and define whether the package is qualified or not. Zhang, the program director of Packaging Engineering in South China Agricultural University, described in this investigation report that the understanding and awareness of consumer, producer and even regulatory authority to the negative impact of over-package are far more than enough, which gave rise to the lack of enforcement of published government regulation (Zhou et al., 2017). Based on the information for current policies and implementation condition, it can be concluded that the social actors involved in the waste management (such as regulatory authorities and citizens) have little knowledge and awareness of environmental-friendly municipal waste disposal method. Moreover, the integrated solid waste management system is immature, and cannot deal with the problem substantially and sustainably treat the waste in total. It is highly recommended that Guangzhou can learn the experience from other successful waste management case to enhance the regulation enforcement.
Figure 3: Sorting Garbage Bin in Guangzhou, provided by Guangzhou Daily, NetEase News
Waste management in Singapore
Singapore can be considered as a highly urbanized and industrialized country also a city, with an aim at accomplishing a sustainable and clean place. Singapore covers 682.7 square kilometers and has a scare-land problem due to a high population density (7088 person per square kilometers) in a small land (Yearbook of Statistics Singapore, 2008). There are also high-dense housing constructions, and almost 83% of the citizens in Singapore have to live in tall and multi-story buildings (Kalaiarasan et al., 2009), which will constrain the waste collection to some extent. In Singapore, the rapid rise of municipal waste generation, and scarcer land use becomes solid waste challenges. The waste disposal has increased nearly seven-fold to 8402 tons per day from 1970 to 2015 (Lee, 2010). However, National Environmental Agency of Singapore (2017) declared that they have tried to handle waste in limited space with a closing waste loop and objectives to “zero waste and zero landfills” through “3Rs”, reduce, reuse, and recycle methods respectively (see figure 4). Reduce, reuse and recycle methods can effectively save natural resource (e.g., water and trees), minimize the negative environmental impact and extend the service years of landfills. Based on this principle, the Singapore government has explored an efficient MSWM system and shape landfill area to be an entertainment place. Firstly, the government has built up an integrated MSWM system to incorporate the stages of recycling, collection, and treatment. Singapore’s National Environment Agency has developed a series of strategies and educated programs to coordinated with the key stakeholders (included private and public sectors, and communities), achieving the sustainable waste management objectives. Therefore, citizens, related enterprises and regulatory authority have sufficient knowledge and awareness of waste management. Secondly, for the waste-reduce principle, it is necessary to recognize the main components of the non-combustible waste, which came from construction, industrial sludge and copper slag (Teo, 2007). In these decades, most of the non-combustible waste have been separated and reprocessed. As a result, there are 94% of the construction waste, and demolition rubbish can be recycled in 2005.
Figure 4: Closing the waste loop, provided by Lee, National Environmental Agency Singapore
As for the waste sorting implementation, the government not only sets sorting trash bin in different colors but also organizes special patrols for random inspection of sorting implementation (see figure 5). If someone is against the sorting rule, this person will be subject to impose a fine in 500 Singapore dollars (Yang & Li 2014). Besides, there is a closed-circuit television in each corner in communities to monitor to check whether people drop litter carelessly so that members of communities will follow the sorting guidance when they throw the household wastes. This activity has a positive contribution to the collection stage and more comfortable for trash company to recognize those can be reused and recycled. Up to 2017, 61% of the total 7.7 million tons per year can be recycled (National Environment Agency, 2017).
Figure 5: Sorting Garbage Bin in Singapore, provided by Shicheng Yezi, Sohu News
The sophisticated marketized waste management system also provides adequate support for the MSWM. Singapore’s government divided the country (city) into nine districts and opened bids to manage municipal waste. All the waste management companies can delegate Singapore Energy Co., Ltd to collect waste disposal charge from citizens and shops. The amount of waste disposal cost will differ from the citizen’s residential area and daily waste quantity of the shops. Those who refuse to make a waste disposal payment will be cut-off the electricity supply. The waste collection companies will receive the fee collected by Singapore Energy Co. and delivered non-recycled waste to incinerators, paying 80 Singapore dollars for incinerating fee (Sina News 2010). This operation mode can significantly ensure the capture of waste disposal fee as well as the daily operation of incinerators.
Plastic package waste for commercial goods is another challenge for waste disposal. The solution decided by the government to the overuse of plastic bags and package is to push forward Singapore Packaging Agreement, which mainly encourages the producers to reduce package use. By 2017, Ma, the minister of Singapore Environment and Water Resource Ministry, had stated in the 10th-anniversary celebration of Singapore package agreement that 39000 tons of package waste is reduced and 93 million Singapore dollars is saved due to the publishing agreement (Lianhezaobao 2017). Furthermore, to follows the “reduce” rule and minimize the waste source, the government declared that new mandatory report framework would be implemented before 2021, which require the enterprise who use product package should report their quantities and types of package bags as well as the plan to reduce packages (Song, 2017).
Implication from Singapore
The implementation of waste management in Guangzhou is inadequate due to the knowledge and awareness gap in stakeholders’ group (e.g., citizens, regulatory authorities, and good producers), and the juvenile MSWM system. According to the successful experience from Singapore, we can realize that firstly, raising stakeholder’s awareness and understandings of municipal waste management by promotion and education is essential, which can guide their behavior in an environmental-friendly way and solve the problem from the origin. Secondly, the Guangzhou government can cooperate with the private market sector to form a waste industrial chain. The private sector can be responsible for the waste disposal fee collection and formulate the amount regarding waste nature rather than requiring everyone 15 yuan equally. Thirdly, the government can enhance the penalty to people who do not follow the regulation. The serious fine imposes on the non-compliance can constrain citizen’s behavior to some extent and ensure the enforcement of regulations.
Last but not the least, to improve the law and regulation related to integrated solid waste management can effectively reduce the waste generation and increase reuse as well as recycle rate. For instance, the categories of waste classification can be more specific to mental, plastic and paper product. Only when Guangzhou improve waste management level can make the city cleaner and green.
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- Figure 1: Fu, Z., Zhu, F., Peng, X (2018). The utilization of municipal waste in Guangzhou, Guangdong Chemistry, 45(9), pp 177-179
- Figure 2: Guangzhou Housing Net (2017), To what extent that Xingfeng landfill influence on the nearby area, Photograph, viewed October 2018, <http://www.sohu.com/a/206193761_582024>
- Figure 3: Guangzhou Daily 2011, Many areas in Guangzhou do not set sorting bin, Photograph, view October 2018, < http://news.163.com/11/0329/03/709K84HP0001124J.html>
- Figure 4: Lee, C (2010), Solid Waste Management in Singapore, Closing the waste loop, National Environmental Agency
- Figure 5: Shicheng Yezi, 2017, Sorting Garbage Bin in Singapore, Sohu News, viewed October 2018, < http://www.sohu.com/a/219202969_292964>
- Cover page: Yep, E 2015, The waste disposal infrastructure in Singapore, Photograph, viewed Sep 2018, <https://www.wsj.com/articles/singapores-innovative-waste-disposal-system-1442197715>
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