Beijing thinks of future, builds world's largest incinerator

By Nona Tepper, October 9, 2014

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China has set the record for the largest bottle of cooking oil (16 feet, 8 inches); the largest statute made of lanterns (a dragon measuring 128 feet by 43 feet); and now, in a proud moment for the capital city, boasts Lujiashan – the world’s largest incinerator. (The That’s Beijing staff has begun to slow clap.)

Ironically branded as “the project to showcase the recycling industry,” the giant pit of fire will begin burning next month in west Beijing. Garbage from Dongcheng, Xicheng, Fengtai, Shijingshan and Mentougou districts will burn in the incinerator, which can process one-sixth of Beijing’s daily waste.

Before being thrown into the fiery pit, which some would say resembles Hell itself, waste will first be left to ferment in a 30-meter-deep pond. Once the fermentation process is complete, mechanized buckets will drop the then-soggy garbage into four giant incinerators. Heat generated from the fiery incineration process will be transformed into electricity. An air-blast system that controls air and atmosphere levels will also guarantee that no outside fermenting or burning smells affect the community, thus keeping neighbors from complaining about any god-awful stench.

Built in a breakneck two years, Lujiashan will apparently reduce the city’s garbage volume by 90 percent. Industry analysts have praised the project for alleviating the strain that the dozens of instant noodle containers, soda bottles and orange rinds weigh on the city. The project cost RMB2.1 billion, and steel giant Shougang Group and the Beijing local government footed the bill.

Because Lujiashan is built on land that belongs to Shougang, neighboring residents did not have the opportunity to voice their dissent. The more than 80 approvals necessary to start construction on the project were obtained in just three months, a process that normally requires several years.

Previously, Beijingers opposed plants like Lujiashan for the strain they put on the environment. Local officials' plans to build nine fire-pits by 2015 were cancelled due to citizen complaints.

But, by next year, the amount of waste produced in Beijing is expected to measure at 8 million tons. Although the city is increasing the cost of household garbage disposal from RMB25 to RMB300 per ton in 2015, the city cannot cover the costs of waste processing. Once Lujiashan goes into full operation, the Beijing authorities expect 40 percent of the city’s household garbage to burn in fiery incinerators.

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