Assessing the challenges and potential of implementing composting as part of a municipal solid waste management system in Baisha, Hainan, China
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China currently produces the largest quantity of municipal solid waste (MSW) in the world at 190, 000, 000 metric tones (World Bank 2005). China faces the continuing challenge of increased waste generation due to population growth, increased income, and increased urbanization. As part of environmental protection initiatives, the central government has issued many policy commitments at the national level to address waste management. In concurrence with the national objectives of addressing the problem of waste management, Hainan province has developed an integrated waste management plan that it hopes to implement by 2020 (The Hainan City Environment and Sanitary Association, in association with Hua Zhong University of Science and Technology of Environmental Science and Engineering, 2005). Organic waste, which accounts for a significant proportion of the waste stream in China, poses both challenges and opportunities in terms of disposal and recovery. While the final disposal of organics may present significant challenges, recovery of organic waste through composting is one alternative. Composting is widely recognized as an effective method of turning organic waste into a useful product. Nevertheless, the implementation of composting as part of a Municipal Solid Waste Management (MSWM) strategy faces challenges. Broadly, these challenges include administrative/policy, human acceptance and participation, management, technological and logistical, and marketing as well as composting process, source separation, contamination, quality of the final product, appropriate composting technologies and final demand and distribution of the final product (Schubeler et al. 1996, Hoornweg et al. 1999). This thesis uses a case study approach in implementing a composting pilot project in cooperation with the local and provincial government in Baisha Hainan China. Labor intensive, low technological, windrow composting is used so as to assess the challenges and potential of implementing composting as part of a municipal solid waste management strategy in Baisha Hainan China. The research uses a participatory action research approach incorporating research methods such as participant observation, key informant interviews (n=122), and rapid rural appraisals. The research objectives are to understand the current waste management system, understand how implementing composting affects the waste management system entails, understand the barriers to implementation, understand the implications: impact of implementation, potential, and finally to propose recommendations on how to implement composting. The research identified seven necessary key factors that if not given sufficient attention could potentially jeopardize the successful implementation and operation of composting: governmental support must be present, funds must be made available since operating cost of the waste management system will increase, best practices for composting must be established, training for waste workers must be provided, a market (or end use) for the final product must be established, NIMBY needs to be addressed, source separation should be applied.