China’s push for urban development has required the demolition of many old structures. This has led to some violence associated with literally having to remove people from their homes. However, problems from tearing down these buildings and developing new ones are the mountains of debris and rubble that are left behind.
These piles of rubble are often concealed, but their has been recent growth in the amounts of waste dumped in the outskirts of China’s major cities. Many people living in suburban areas or near a major city are finding new illegally dumped waste near their homes every week.
Along China’s 5th Ring Road, a half ton of debris is piled on each kilometer on average! These massive amounts of waste and rubble have outraged environmentalists and many find it insulting to their cultures in general. With China’s recent economic growth, people are consuming and throwing out waste more than ever before in China’s history, and because this has received much of the attention, construction debris has been almost forgotten about.
Buildings in China are typically torn down after 30 years, compared to 75 years in the United States. Japan reuses 95% of their construction debris, while China is currently only recycling around 5%. Many believe that in order for China to start recycling their construction material, they must first convince the people that it is safe or at a high enough standard.
“This one thing seems small, but it’s very important,” said Wu Changhua, the greater China director for The Climate Group, an international environmental NGO that helped the company develop the recycling program. “Working with the company and the experts, we pretty much concluded that in the construction sector there should be no waste at all. That was very encouraging for us. And if that’s the case, we have to ask what are the barriers.”