Archive for the ‘consumer & environment issues’ Category

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!

The missing e-car charging stations in Beijing

Monday, March 17th, 2014

See my earlier post on the meeting with Beijing’s vice mayor, where my report on the planned amount of new charging stations for 2014 was confirmed: 1,000 stations for e-cars.

Now Caixin just reported that State Grid had planned to build 197 charging stations this year with a total investment of 3.88 billion yuan. As far as I know, no mention of other companies involved. So, who will build the remaining 800 charging stations?

Chinese officials promote pollution: more is better

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Indeed, as I reported a couple of times in the past, local authorities, be it government or police, enjoy it creating more pollution and are proud enough to show it in China Daily.

Caption of the picture in China Daily 12 March 2014: Police in Ningming, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, burn 1 metric ton of confiscated narcotics on Monday. The drugs, including heroin, were seized along the China-Vietnam border since the start of 2013. LI BIN / XINHUA
Fortunately some in the government are a bit more educated, a recent huge haul of counterfeit cigarettes was burned in a power plant.
When will they learn? And then Premier Li Keqiang calls for “war on pollution”.

Pollution in Paris: less clarity than in Beijing

Monday, March 17th, 2014

France, as well as other EU countries are as opaque as possible about pollution. None gives API or AQI figures. Most still work with PM10 instead of PM2.5. Beijing is more transparent. Maybe Paris needs the US embassy to start measuring. Right today in Beijing at some point the AQI was 112 with PM2.5 of 40 µg/m3 (US embassy) while Beijing says PM10: 370 µg and PM2.5: 71 µg; pollution level 228 (one of the rare moments the US embassy has better readings). The same lack of clarity is in Hong Kong where I have never seen clear AQI or API figures.
What I understand, Belgium is even worse. Not easy to know the figures there. Anyway, their “alarm levels” are a joke for us in Beijing: life would be at a constant stand-still if we applied theirs.
You can check the AQI of Paris (and Belgian cities, as well as Beijing!) here:
However the media never refer to those values. And the values are, compared to Beijing, a dream. Wish we had that “pollution” every single day!