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    How Shanghai Turned a Notorious Dump Site Into an Eco-Haven

    Laogang Waste Disposal Base processes a third of Shanghai’s waste and generates 1.6 billion kWh of electricity yearly, offsetting half a million tons of coal usage.
    Nov 09, 2023#environment

    SHANGHAI — For decades, Laogang Town on the outskirts of Shanghai was infamous as one of the city’s most inhospitable areas. Since the late 1980s, it was Asia’s largest landfill, with a pervasive stench that the humid summer air and southeast winds only exacerbated. And more pressing was the contamination of groundwater, which could have posed serious health threats.

    Fast-forward to today, and the Shanghai Laogang Waste Disposal Base has now been transformed from a source of discomfort into a pioneering eco-park. Repurposed by the National Enterprise Shanghai Chengtou Group, it now spans 15.3 square kilometers and has grown to become the world’s largest single incineration plant, capable of incinerating 11,000 tons of garbage daily.

    According to Wu Yuefeng, Deputy General Manager of Chengtou Laogang, since Phase 2 of the plant was launched in 2019, the facility has managed one-third of Shanghai’s municipal solid waste.

    Simultaneously, it also generates 1.6 billion kWh of electricity annually. This is equivalent to replacing over 500,000 tons of standard coal, meaning cleaner energy production and a substantial reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, emissions from Laogang remain well below not only national standards but even the stringent EU 2000 standards.

    The facility employs advanced anaerobic fermentation and aerobic composting to manage Shanghai’s wet waste. This not only expands disposal capacity but produces energy-rich organic residuals that are ripe for bioconversion.

    According to Zhang Weitao, manager of the Bioenergy Reutilization Division, Laogang has incorporated 500 million black soldier flies into its waste management process using fully automated breeding methods to enhance bioconversion.

    Zhang stated that black soldier flies, with their short life cycles, play a crucial role in waste management at Laogang. As larvae, they consume waste prolifically — up to 200 times their body weight — and grow rapidly. The adult flies are then processed; their waste is turned into organic fertilizer to enrich agricultural soil, and their bodies, high in protein, become feed for fish and poultry.

    “After Phase 3 in May 2025, we will process 4,500 tons of wet waste daily, converting it into energy, animal feed, and fertilizers. This will position Laogang as the world’s leading facility for comprehensive wet waste resource utilization,” said Zhang.

    (Header image: Workers monitor garbage incineration in the central control room of the Laogang Waste Incineration Power Plant Phase 2, Shanghai, Oct. 30, 2023. Wu Huiyuan/Sixth Tone)