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China's waste incineration plants refuse data request

The majority of China’s waste incineration plants are refusing to disclose information, according to the NGOs Friends of Nature and Wuhu Ecology Centre 

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Protest against a waste-buring plant in Guangzhou Fanyu, south China (Image copyright: Chongqing Dagong Website)

The majority of China’s more than 100 waste incineration plants have failed to respond to pollution data requests by environmental NGOs.

Green campaign groups Wuhu Ecology Centre and Friends of Nature submitted requests to 122 trash-burning plants throughout China, asking for information on pollution discharge. Only 42 responded. 
 
Friends of Nature’s director Liang Xiaoyan said the plants that did respond only did so after multiple requests. “If you just make a normal application, you might not receive any information at all,” he said.
 
Along with China’s rapid urbanisation, waste has become a major environmental problem.
 
By 2015, China is expected to have more than 300 waste incineration plants. But China’s pollution control standards for burning household waste lag behind those of the EU, with 10 times the dioxin concentration limits. As a result, waste incineration has been linked to environmental pollution and public health problems and continues to trigger public protests.
 
The environmental NGOs say that even the information they did obtain was incomplete. Of the 112 operational incinerator plants, only two provided monitoring data for fly ash, three for slag and eight for carbon monoxide and mercury. 
 
Lai Weijie, chairman of Taiwan’s Green Citizen’s Action Alliance and previously a project consultant for Friends of Nature, said there was no need for companies to withhold the data. The more information is made available and the more transparency there is, he said, the more chance of finding the pollution source and person responsible when a problem arises.
 
“The reason the government doesn’t disclose is because there is no separation between state and business. The government acts as both referee and sportsman,” said Mao Da, of Nature University’s Institute of Waste. 
 
He cited the recent example of Guangzhou’s Li Hang incineration plant as a case in point. Nature University took the plant to court at the end of October 2012 for not responding to its application for information disclosure. 
 
Li Hang used to be state-run, but was later restructured and its operations transferred to a company (in which the government was a stakeholder). 
 
At first the incineration plant agreed to a request to disclose information. However, a public notification later stated that the information Xie Yong had applied for involved trade secrets and that the company would therefore need to seek the approval of their affiliated company before responding.

A later court ruling dismissed Xie Yong's appeal of the decision. He is now in the process of referring this ruling to the State Council, the highest administrative body in China.

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