Archive for the ‘consumer & environment issues’ Category

Where is The Forbidden City? Can’t see a thing! Pollution nightmare and what to expect

Monday, January 26th, 2015

On 15 January, after leaving the Great Hall of the People I crossed Tiananmen Square. Pollution was horrendous, one of the worst days in months: well over AQI 500. See the pictures.

Beijing has a big big challenge really to clean that up.
As I explained to the European Chamber, the Beijing Government is under severe pressure to solve the pollution problems. Targets to reduce PM2.5 have not been met and the Central Government is starting to pressure Beijing: solve it, otherwise you will get in BIG trouble (won’t say here what they actually meant by that…)
Both SCMP and China Daily reported on the issue. In short, the only way to solve the problem:

-       reduce the population now estimated (officially) at 21.52 million (my estimate is much higher);
-       make Beijing an expensive city to live in: expensive subway, expensive housing, no relaxation of home ownership;
-       reduce polluting traffic;
-       remove as much industry that requires a lot of manpower and is polluting;
-       close down 36 large markets including wholesale markets for clothing (near Beijing Zoo);
-       increase green and agricultural belts around the city;
-       in short make the city unwelcoming for migrants, industry and “others”.

For a taste, read this:
24 January 2015 – Beijing to limit population growth this year
There is more about that on China Daily.

The Third Beijing Environment and Sustainability Fair in the Hilton Hotel

Monday, July 14th, 2014

The Third Beijing Environment and Sustainability Fair took place on 28 June 2014 from 10:00 to 17:00 at the Hilton Beijing Hotel (Liangma Qiao). The First Beijing Environment and Sustainability Fair event was held on 15 June 2013 and was an overwhelming success. The Second Beijing Environment and Sustainability Fair event was held on 9 November 2013 and was even better than the first one.
There is a growing demand for green products in China and new companies are regularly being formed in order to serve the ever growing need of this market. The Environment and Sustainability Fair is a perfect occasion to promote environmentally friendly values and products.
Entrance was free for everyone.
The event was organized and promoted through the FCGroup and its sponsors.

I decided to participate too, for the fun, selling my book “Toxic Capitalism” and to promote Rotaract. It was also a nice way to meet friends who came by for a chat.
See also:
A busy day as the same evening I went to the concert of Akon… Another great and different experience.

Beijing’s hidden village of garbage collectors is to be demolished

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014

See the earlier post here on my visit to the village: “Exploring the recycling villages of Beijing with Radio France”
Most of Beijing’s vast, but mostly ignored, army of waste collectors and recyclers live in the village of Dongxiaokou, once a small farming community in the northern suburbs of the Chinese capital, just outside the Fifth Ring Road. See here the location and a picture of China Daily.

In the early years of this century, the village ceased to be an agricultural center, becoming instead Beijing’s – and arguably North China’s – biggest space for the storage and recycling of electronic waste. It is now being demolished by the authorities.
All the hectic building in the past years created vast amounts of construction and industrial waste – metal, wood and plastic – which the villagers purchased in bulk and sold to the little recycling factories that are scattered all over neighboring Hebei province.
The recyclers also bought from waste-collectors who stationed themselves outside numerous gated residential neighborhoods to offer meager sums for items the locals either no longer wanted or had no use for – ranging from empty bottles and old newspapers to used furniture and household appliances, and, almost inevitably, air conditioners.
They cleaned and repaired the ones in relatively good condition and then sold them, directly and through middlemen, to people who were keen to buy secondhand stuff at a customer-friendly price. Items beyond salvage were only valuable as raw materials. They probably ended up in those recycling factories, some transported by the freight trains that had previously carried coal and vegetables from Hebei to Beijing.
At its peak, through the collection, trading and recycling of waste, Dongxiaokou provided livelihoods for nearly 30,000 people.
The demolition of the village risks returning these people to their pre-Dongxiaokou days, when they roamed the city and found temporary refuge in unlikely places. The removal might be right due the environmental problems the village caused, because of the dust and the pollution from burning some of the waste. But these people are indispensable indeed as long as the government is not able to produce a viable alternative.
It is impractical to relocate operations outside the city boundaries because the increased transport costs would make the recycling businesses economically unviable.
Compared with the burning and burial of waste, now a common practice in Beijing, recycling has the obvious advantage of creating less pollution and saving natural resources.

See the original article China Daily “Saying goodbye to a life of grime”, dated 9 May 2014:

Exploring the recycling villages of Beijing with Radio France

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

In my book Toxic Capitalism I mention the vast recycling network in Beijing, some being officially sanctioned, some being done by rather mafia-like operations.
Radio France, after reading my book, invited me to explore together one of the major villages in the north of Beijing, well after the 4th ring road; the radio interview was done walking around and in the taxi on our way back.
We went on a sunny Saturday afternoon, with Philippe of Radio France and Luca as our valuable guide and translator.
I was at first not that at ease as the people in those “garbage villages” do not like foreigners nosing around. We decided not to run around with cameras in hand, though Philippe shot some good pics with his mobile, I myself made one shot of the truck piled up with carton.
The village we visited is just immense and we walked around in just a part of it. Pretty impressive how the Chinese have built a small industry in recovering and recycling anything that comes to mind: plastics of all kids, styrofoam, water containers, fire extinguishers, office carpets, mattresses, aluminum, iron, steel, electronics, batteries, wood, paper, name it. All a bit messy and dusty and we were lucky it was not windy and not raining.

Thanks to Philippe for his pics. See the people dismantling the LED publicity panels, recovering plastics, metals, electronic circuits and all. I was also happy to see the recyclers are using a machine to mechanically remove the insulation from copper wires, and not burning them as it often happens.
Seems nothing gets “wasted”. We chatted with some of the workers who ended up being very friendly and we did not encounter any problem.
We were looking in particular to the batteries, a problem for the environment as the vast majority of batteries used in e-bikes and other equipment are still acid-lead type batteries. Some of the batteries still were filled with the liquid, others were dry, others were sealed.

Strange Chinese brand names for bread

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

At home we buy some of our bread in the Chinese supermarket, and from a Belgian baker. The two local Chinese brands have, well, a bit of colorful names: Mankattan and Wekipedia.

Despite the strange names, pretty OK otherwise. And see the picture, otherwise you might think I made it all up!