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Characterisation of municipal solid waste and
its recyclable contents of Guangzhou
ARTICLE in WASTE MANAGEMENT & RESEARCH · JANUARY 2002
Impact Factor: 1.3 · DOI: 10.1177/0734242X0101900603 · Source: PubMed

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Chi Sun Poon

Hong Kong Baptist University

The Hong Kong Polytechnic University

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sagepub.sagepub.sagepub.com On behalf of: International Solid Waste Association Additional services and information for Waste Management & Research can be found at: Email Alerts: http://wmr.com/cgi/content/abstract/19/6/473 Published by: http://www.Waste Management & Research http://wmr.com at University of Newcastle on July 16.nav Citations http://wmr. 473 DOI: 10. 2010 .nav Permissions: http://www.sagepub.com Characterisation of municipal solid waste and its recyclable contents of Guangzhou Shan-Shan Chung and Chi-Sun Poon Waste Manag Res 2001.com/subscriptions Reprints: http://www. 19.sagepub.com/cgi/alerts Subscriptions: http://wmr.sagepub.1177/0734242X0101900603 The online version of this article can be found at: http://wmr.sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.com/journalsReprints.sagepub.com/cgi/content/refs/19/6/473 Downloaded from http://wmr.sagepublications.

Introduction Waste characteristics. Although this lends support to the recent controls on expanded polystyrene food containers implemented by the Guangzhou environmental protection bureau.sagepub.Waste Manage Res 2001: 19: 473–485 Printed in UK – all rights reserved Copyright © ISWA 2001 Waste Management & Research ISSN 0734–242X Characterisation of municipal solid waste and its recyclable contents of Guangzhou Waste characteristics are essential data for waste disposal facilities planning and waste management policy formulation. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. recyclability of waste. would generally be more costly to recycle than other non-composite wastes. But the proportion of plastic materials in the waste stream has increased and is now comparable to its more urbanized cities. consumer batteries. Furthermore. Research Centre for Urban Environmental Technology and Management.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. more detailed analysis shows that the focus should not only be on disposable food containers. the waste characteristics of a city are not always available in mainland China owing to the lack of funding to carry out appropriate field studies and the lack of awareness among local waste management officials of its importance. composing more than one type of Shan-Shan Chung Chi-Sun Poon Research Centre for Urban Environmental Technology and Management. Waste-toenergy is another treatment method that requires knowledge of moisture contents and the make-up of the waste streams. A yearlong field survey on the physical components of waste and the recyclable in the waste stream has been conducted in Guangzhou to fill the information gap and to provide further experience for waste characterization study in mainland China. mainland China Corresponding author: C. including both the physical and chemical compositions. the abundance of composite materials in the waste stream solicits attention from the waste management authority to step up the monitoring of their generation pattern and to consider imposing control measures. Poon. China Received 05 May 2000. The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. However. It was found that the ash content in the waste stream has decreased considerably. Hung Hom. Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. 1 This is a formal term for paper board containers which are also lined with film plastics and/or metal foil. Hong Kong. waste characterisation study. such as liquid paper board1. but also on film plastic waste. the methodologies used are not stringent. accepted in revised form 02 March 2001 generic material. Hung Hom. 2010 473 . recyclable contents. Waste recycling in particular is material specific and has high specifications on the homogenity of the waste materials. Department of Civil and Structural Engineering. S. However. Hong Kong. composite materials. Composites. Department of Civil and Structural Engineering. waste composition studies are rarely carried out in mainland Chinese cities and even when it does. are essential data for designing appropriate pollution control measures in the waste disposal facilities and for waste management policy formulation and evaluation. Guangzhou. China Keywords – Waste composition.

researchers generally regard questionnaire estimates as no more than an educated guess (Yu & Maclaren 1995). Focusing on a relatively small Irish community. Approaches in characterising municipal solid waste and their pros and cons Municipal solid waste (MSW) can be characterised by its physical or chemical parameters. a commonly recognised sample selection process to minimise sampling bias does not exist. representative samples are to be prepared (careful mixing. each waste sample taken by Blight et al. Tchobanoglous et al. As a result. This is the most direct and often the only way to get to know the waste stream. Chung. C. The data of these three cities were selected for comparison mainly for the reason that the respective field characterisation study methodologies were also known either through published literature or through direct communication with the relevant authorities. it is more widely adopted. More commonly. samples were extracted by volume. in a number of countries.sagepub. A review of the required size of each sample extracted for characterisation in the survey shows that there are wide variations in practices. the waste content and waste quantity are estimated on production data for materials and products with adjustments for imports. In this approach. the limitations of waste characterisation in the field will be acknowledged and suggestions to improve on the methodology of waste characterisation studies will be made. One cubic metre of solid waste (average 190 kg) was measured in Hong Kong (EPD 2000. In addition. the metal fraction of the waste samples cannot be addressed adequately by this method. the ERRA (1993) Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. the Federal Ministry for Environment and Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (1993) recommended a sampling time frame of 5 consecutive seasons. Similarly. This is particularly a concern if the moisture contents of waste are crucial data to the users. 2010 .S. S. In Hong Kong and Germany. with every sampling period consisting of 7 consecutive days. comm. Brunner & Ernst (1986) suggested assessing the chemical composition of the waste stream from the products of waste treatment process that involves substantial chemical transformation of the waste matters. sampling about 5 to 7 tonnes of waste per week for domestic waste. recycling and product lifetimes (Franklin Assoicates 1999). Poon This paper presents the findings of a year-long field study on waste characterisation in Guangzhou and compares the results with those of the Hong Kong Self Administrative Region (HK). However. In Germany. Thus.) and 1. pers. In South Africa. However. 1996b) were able to sort all the waste that had been arranged to be delivered to the study site. Dennison et al. Dublin (in Ireland) and Heidelberg (in South Africa). In addition to the presentation of findings and the comparison. including mainland China. Methodology review of the field characterisation approach and its pros and cons The last one is the field characterisation approach. The last two sections of this paper discuss how the findings and experience gained in this research study can be applied in waste management in Guangzhou. (1999) weighed from 20-30 kg or 85 litre in volume. grinding and pulverising) for laboratory chemical analysis.1 cubic metre was used as the extraction standard for each sample of waste in Germany (Federal Ministry for Environment. (1996a. Waste characterisation can also be obtained by conducting questionnaire surveys on waste generators. S. (1993) and Martin et al. (1995) suggested that each unit of the sample should be about 91 kg while ERRA (1993) recommended a larger unit size of 100-200 kg. An inherent drawback of this approach is that product residues associated with 474 other items (such as unconsumed fluid in containers) are not accounted for. such as incineration. refuse-derived fuel processing and composting. waste management authorities characterised MSW by its physical contents. Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety 1993). this approach also fails to address variations in local waste generation conditions (Martin et al. 1995). Although this is a lower cost alternative to other approaches. exports. As the data and the methodologies form a complete set and they have higher reference values.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. One that is adopted by the United State Environmental Protection Agency is the “material flows” approach. To characterise the chemical fraction of the waste stream. most of these processes or facilities are not in use or found. There are three different ways to do this. especially in small to medium-sized open economies. Yet. An earlier study of Yu & Maclaren (1995) showed that waste composition data on industrial waste obtained from questionnaire surveys correlates poorly with field data.

Other than the lack of a standard sampling framework. on the other hand. The sampling plans for a number of research studies carried out in Chinese and European cities are also quite different from the ones suggested above. In the 1995 study. It has four distinct climatic seasons with the wet seasons being in summer months. pers. pers. summer time (Lu 2000. six samples weighing about 0. In the 1993 study.. Concerning sample extraction.99 million and a per capita GDP of RMB 32. there are operational limitations in the field char- acterisation approach. In Heidelberg. 1996b) carried out a waste characterisation study by performing field sorting on 57.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. Usually.514 per year3 (Guangzhou Yearbook 1999). researchers of past waste composition analyses took samples from both selected waste collection points at residential districts and at landfills. Second. 1US®RMB8. a medium-sized city in South China.sagepub. (1993) proposed using the coning and quartering method in extracting waste samples. In mainland China. It is situated in the southern part of the People’s Republic of China.). (1996a. would give adequately accurate approximation at 2% error and 95% confidence level. about 300 to 320 samples. it has a population of 3. are likely to stick to the larger and entire waste items. i. the resulting readings are likely to overrepresent entire items but underrepresent smaller waste items. It can offer data on specific waste streams and it does not require data on the production sector and the ingress and egress of goods and products for a place as in the material flow approach. if carried out at all. Blight et al. the two most recent waste composition studies were carried out in 1993 and 1995. adding up to 59 tonnes of waste. In Hong Kong. Dennison et al. is conducted on an ad hoc basis.000. (1999) conducted waste characterisation studies in all four seasons of the year2. again only six samples were analysed (Zheng 1997. First. were analysed in a year (EPD 2000). Limitations of previous waste composition analysis in Guangzhou and objectives of the present study Guangzhou is the capital city of the Guangdong province. (1995). Thus. In a lot of mainland Chinese cities. comm. A number of limitations are found with regard to the previous waste composition analyses in Guangzhou. The data were 2 The aggregated amount of waste sorted was not reported. 2010 475 . waste analysis studies have to be carried out at three-monthly intervals wherever budgetary and operational factors allow. Yet. As of 1998. The variation in these proposed and adopted procedures suggests that waste characterisation approaches are set out in accordance with the availability of budget and the unique social and customary practices. the technical memorandum released by the Chinese Ministry of Construction (1988) required the waste composition to be known before designing and constructing landfills. It also recommended that the sampling size should vary according to the size of the population but with at least 0. However.Characterisation of municipal solid waste and its recyclable contents of Guangzhou recommended that to give the annual estimate. Martin et al.e.6 tonnes in total were randomly extracted for composition determination and were analysed over a period of three consecutive days in June. waste characteristics are not considered important and waste characterisation studies are accorded low priority in view of general budget constraints. comm. this approach has several obvious advantages over other appoaches. Sorting of waste with the presence of moisture means that small fragmented objects. ERRA (1993) and Tchobanoglous et al. waste characterisation study. using single season data to represent a yearround situation. such as ashes. found that analysing 25 random samples. It also gives researchers firsthand data on the state of waste and recyclable arisings of a place.).5 tonnes of waste if the number of households at the population exceeds 50. with each weighted at their recommended fig.5 tonnes of waste to be sampled at each study interval and up to 12. but analysing a larger number of samples.1% of the target households in their research (or 12 tonnes of waste in aggregation) in just one season (autumn/winter period). the characterisation study for the city average is obtained by field sorting on a 6-month interval at two climatic seasons (summer and winter). In Dongguan.5 3 Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. they were only occassionally carried out owing to budget constraints and generally the data of only one sampling period (covering one season only) were used to represent a year’s waste composition (see Guangzhou Environmental Health Institute 1996 and Lei 1997).

the number of samples for field determination of waste characterisation depends on the variation in the waste composition of each sample in the sampling point. however. 476 Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. In view of the lack of common consensus among waste management practitioners and researchers in the timing of the study and the sample size. therefore. Thus. waste at the landfills is generally scavenged more intensively than waste at the waste collection points. of days for the field study 2 16 1881 1588 2 then compiled to form one data set to represent a single year. recyclable components and the moisture contents of domestic solid waste in Guangzhou. and taking into consideration the large seasonal range in the humidity of the South China region. an equal number of samples5 were taken from the waste stream of each of the eight administrative districts. The findings and the lessons learnt from the study should provide relatively reliable and updated data for the preparation of waste management plans for Guangzhou. The traditional handsorting field characterisation of the physical composition of MSW is. such as water melon skins. Thus. namely. to find out the representative composition and moisture contents of the waste streams for the four seasons. Details of the sampling plan Jan. the authors decided to conduct sampling in all four seasons. ideal conditions are hard to find. the only feasible approach in the case of Guangzhou. even a small number of samples can reliably reflect the percentage composition of the waste stream. Chung. 4Waste composition is influenced by customary practices in the following ways: i) the generation of greater amount of fruit skins. January. The material flows approach is not used as there is no detailed record of the flow of goods and products in and out of the city. an equal number of samples were taken from each district and the data from each district is also given an equal weight in working out the total waste composition. This ignores the fact that waste scavenging activities take place at all levels of the waste collection process (see Chung & Poon 1998). S. in view of the absence of incineration. 1999 (Spring) No. in summer. C. Theoretically. Direct aggregation of the waste composition data from two different waste collection levels has obscured the effect of waste scavenging in the waste stream and the data will also have the recyclable portion overrepresented. With thorough mixing. ii) the generation of more textile waste and waste of durable goods during the late winter months prior to the Chinese New Year. Therefore. May. 1999 (Summer) 6 48 5090 4986 3 Oct. Poon Table 1. In addition. Third.S. In reality. waste receiving at different points of time at the reception facility may vary considerably. 1999 (Winter) 6 48 4796 4481 3 Methodology Sampling plan The sampling plan should be designed to capture representative waste samples. S.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. of samples from each administrative district Total no. 1999 (Autumn) 6 48 4896 4507 3 Dec. a full-year study was carried out by the authors in collaboration with the Zhongshan University of Guangzhou in 1999 to determine the percentage distribution of waste. deriving the chemical fractions of the waste in Brunner & Ernst’s (1985) approach is also not an option. past studies only surveyed the generic composition of the waste matter but did not give information on the recyclable contents and the recyclability of the materials is assumed on the basis of their generic material types. Each field study period lasted two to three consecutive days. In order to obtain samples that would be typical of all the administrative districts in Guangzhou.sagepub. 5The actual residential/industrial/commercial mixes of waste among the eight districts are not known by the waste management authorities of Guangzhou. In view of these limitations. the timing of the survey must be such that the main variations within the designed research timeframe are captured but does not include the one-off erratic cases. the potential of recycling as a tool to reduce disposal waste stream is not clearly known. of samples Total weight for the samples prior to sorting (kg) Total weight of the waste sorted (kg) No. May. and iii) a greater amount of food and packaging waste is likely to be generated during early spring time soon after the Chinese New Year and in mid-autumn after the Mid-Autumn Festival. the determination of sample size also depends on the budget availability of the relevant authority. 2010 . refuse-derived fuel and composting plant in Guangzhou. September and December of 1999. demographic and customary factors4. Owing to seasonal. As a result. Field characterisation studies were carried out in four different periods. Also.

unenclosed area. Martin et al. although in order to avoid rainy days. Compared to the sampling size of similar studies conducted in Hong Kong and the recommended sample sizes of ERRA and the German environmental ministry. the sample size of the present study is smaller. This is due to the presence of small state-run out-patient clinics in the residential areas and the clinical waste was handled together with domestic waste. A third but minor possibility was the cumulative error in weigh measurement as a result of infrequent calibration of the scales. generally wetted. (1993) and ERRA (1993) was not used in this study however owing to the operational difficulties in spreading out and dividing a large load of waste on ground.6% of the waste (the discrepancy between the weight of the sample before and after sorting of the samples) taken was not sorted due to the following reasons: i.Characterisation of municipal solid waste and its recyclable contents of Guangzhou The sample selection process started with selecting the residential refuse collection points (they are also called huan wei zhan. The sorting took place in an outdoor uncovered. Paper waste. The waste matters were then spread out on a piece of plastic sheet where handsorting was performed by a team of about 10 sorters who were briefed on the sorting requirements.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. clinical wastes were found in the waste samples. Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. But it is believed that this is not a main factor. in mainland China). literally. the study was able to expand the total number of samples from 16 to 48 for the summer. The staff of the selected refuse collection points were instructed not to dispose of the waste in the normal location but at the surveying field during surveying periods. iii. Human error: First. Two to six refuse collection points in the residential areas from each administrative district were randomly selected. ii. due to the presence of moisture. To minimise such error. part of the sample. and iv. however. the fine materials in the waste were found to stick to the sorting platform. especially during January and December. All four sorting studies were carried out during dry periods. one of the two landfills in Guangzhou. as proposed by Tchobanoglous et al. Researchers were not able to extract them for further sorting and weighting. About 6. Zhongshan University and the Guangzhou Environmental Health Institute. Instead. The residual or unknown fraction (<15mm) of the surveyed waste stream was. Water loss error: evaporation and draining away of leachate or fluid remaining in the waste matters were the causes. some sorters had the tendency to keep the more valuable materials found during the sort- ing process despite repeated warnings from the research team. Table 1 states the details of the sampling plan for this study. sorting studies were postponed for a number of times throughout the summer survey. they were ignored in the subsequent weighing of individual materials causing a discrepancy between the extracted and sorted waste. The coning and quartering method. containers and tools. reducing the need for the refuse collection vehicle drivers to change routing. The field work was carried out at the Li Keng landfill. especially the lighter portion. The Li Keng landfill was chosen as it accommodates the majority of the solid waste in Guangzhou and. Wind blown error: since the sorting process was carried out in the open. sorters with poor discipline were not hired in the subsequent surveys. This was more prominently found during the first survey. thus. A total of 160 loads of waste were sorted in the four field studies.Non-domestic waste: despite careful selection of sampling points. was blown away. Since clinical waste is out of the scope of our research. (1993). was less affected. small and should not be a concern (see Brunner & Ernst 1986). 2010 477 . Second. It was observed that film plastics were the most susceptible materials to this cause. The shares of individual waste materials presented in Table 3 are expressed as a percentage of the waste sorted (reported in row five of Table 1). when wind is strong at times. a mechanical shovel was used to randomly extract samples from the unloaded pile of waste until the desired quantity was obtained. Each sorting team was supervised by three researchers from the Hong Kong Polytechnic University. a sample of at least 100 kg was extracted from each selected truck-load of waste sample.sagepub. With the additional resources from the Municipal Environmental Health Bureau of Guangzhou. Sampling process In view of the practical difficulties in extracting the waste by volume in our study site and following the recommendation of Tchobanoglous et al. autumn and winter studies. (1995) and ERRA (1993). environmental hygiene stations.

In Hong Kong. Active sorting was performed on all materials. This is also the approach adopted in previous waste composition analyses in the present study. except for putrescibles. some composite products. Waste 478 < 15 mm ash. textile. sand & unrecognisables* ≥ 15 mm putrescibles* Rock. pers. the data from the 19 categories were then regrouped into 12 principal categories (column 1 of Table 2). the 15 mm dimension was chosen for fine particles. Each sample was extracted and put in aluminium containers. C. become a concern. The classification for recyclable contents used in Hong Kong was adopted in this study so that the findings of the two cities could be directly compared. composing mainly paper but consisting also of film plastic and/or metal foil is classified as paper waste in Hong Kong (EPD 2000. metals. The remains were categorised as “≥ 15 mm putrescibles”. together with unrecognisables and the less commonly found materials. are classified in the “others” category. But in this study. Chung. paper. glass. This is due to the consideration that Guangzhou has plans to build a number of waste-to-energy facilities in the near future and the heavy metal contents in consumer batteries will. Towards the end of each sorting exercise. wood & rattan* Glass Plastics Recyclables Newspaper* Other waste paper* Tinted glass* Clear glass* Expanded polystyrene food containers* Other expanded polystyrene* Plastic beverage containers* Coloured plastic bags* Clear/white plastic bags* Other plastics* Rubber* Consumer batteries* plastics. such as cameras. comm. Moisture contents Separate samples were randomly taken from the same waste load. There was also the intention to further sort each recyclable material according to its recyclability into “good”. The 40 mm and 20 mm sieves were used by the German Ministry for Environment (1993) and ERRA (1993) respectively to separate the fine particles from the rest of the waste. All the materials were weighed with sorting containers on mechanical scales that were calibrated each day before being used for the measurements. however. During the sorting process. 1996b) in their study. High-density polyethylene containers and rattan baskets with no covers were used to contain the sorted materials. Liquid was drained away and solid matters were sorted together with all other waste. consumer batteries. stone & sand* Paper Ferrous metals* Non-ferrous metals* Rags & textile products* Bamboo.S. For the readings of the waste streams. Categorisation of waste and recyclables A major step in a waste characterisation survey is to decide how the waste shall be categorised. Poon Characterisation process Table 2. therefore. 2010 . stones. such as leather (EPD 2000. etc) of which the waste is made up. No further cleaning of the waste matters was performed before weighing. (1996a. pers. It should. Another more detailed classification system was proposed by ERRA (1993) and was used by Dennison et al. To render the findings from this study comparable to previous findings. tightly covered and then transported Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. “average” or “poor”. liquid paper board. the classification system used in the present study largely follows previous ones with the exception of making consumer batteries a category on its own. S.).).sagepub. The classification system used should be able to provide adequate information for waste policy formulation and should also be able to allow instant field identification. for instance. etc) from the materials that did not pass through the sieve. ashes and fine unrecognisables. Fine materials passing through the sieve were classified as sand. the contents of any containers or bags found in the waste were emptied. Further detailed sorting was performed to pick out all recognisable items (such as small pieces of paper. the remaining waste matters were put through a 15 mm sieve. comm. S. be noted that in Hong Kong. The extracted sample was then handsorted into 19 categories (marked with * in Table 2) under the supervision of the research team. The data on waste composition of this study represent the percentage of the waste matters in the domestic waste stream on a wet weigh basis. A principle used in physical classification of waste is to group waste types by the generic material types (such as plastics.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. to be concordant with previous waste composition analyses conducted in Guangzhou.

9 2.4 2.Characterisation of municipal solid waste and its recyclable contents of Guangzhou Table 3.4 8. Recyclable contents Table 4 states the proportion of recyclables found in the waste stream.9 2.8 3.7 13. Recyclable contents in the waste stream of Guangzhou year average (on wet weight basis %) Paper Newspaper Other paper Ferrous metals Non-ferrous metals Rags 1.5 Oct 7.8 Hong Kong.7 0.0 2.4 0.).01 43.1 0.8 14.8 3.4 4.2 0.8 0.0 Non-recyclables 68.4 0.sagepub.1 48.1 0. This is similarly the case in Hong Kong where the bulky waste is delivered separately to landfills or refuse transfer stations.3 0.9 - (NB: Fig.1 14.3 2.2 1. comm. sand & unrecognisables Brick & stones >15 mm putrescibles Ferrous metals Non-ferrous metals Paper Rags Plastics Rubber Wood.7 0.com at University of Newcastle on July 16.0 Other foam plastics 0.3 2.2 3.0 Metals 0.2 6.2 51.8 58.3 4.1 2. The time lag between the sample collection and such laboratory processing varied from 4 hours (for the last batch of samples of the day) to 12 hours (for the first batch of samples of the day).3 0.4 0. As expected. The data are expressed as percentages (by weight) of the total waste stream. only about 147 samples are taken for the measurement of moisture content in each half yearly survey (EPD 1999b. 2010 479 . the moisture content of waste is strongly influenced by the weather.4 5.4 3.9 54. Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr.8 48.9 5.9 0.3 0.6 0.5 0.3 0.s may not add due to rounding) to the laboratory for the drying and weighting process on the same day when the sample was taken.00 0.4 5.4 3.1 45.1 47. Results Waste composition and moisture contents Table 3 states the seasonal and yearly averages of the waste composition of Guangzhou in 1999.6 0.5 0.0 59.2 6. It is the highest in summer and spring months.6 15.3 6.8 Wood. furniture and large pieces made up of more than one generic material.4 1994 21. expressed as a percentage of the total recyclables found in the waste stream is shown Table 4.9 15.3 1. The measurement of each subcategory. pers.5 1.1 Glass Tinted glass 0. Seasonal and yearly averages of waste components in Guangzhou (1994 and 1999) % (by weight. on a wet basis) Jan <15 mm ashes.8 2.1 Clear plastic bags 4. In Western cities. This sample size was comparatively large6.8 0. A total of 1.9 May 8. bamboo & rattan Glass Consumer battery Moisture content 10.3 14.7 Clear glass 1.9 Other plastics Other plastics 2.6 0.1 Plastic bags Coloured plastic bags 6.3 Foam plastics Plastic foam containers 1.9 Dec Yearly average (1999) 9.3 5.3 Plastic beverage containers Plastic beverage containers 0.8 4. The present sampling method is not able to analysis bulky waste contents in the waste stream as they are transported to the landfill in separate trips by general purpose trucks if they are not already recovered in the waste transfer process.024 samples were analysed for their moisture contents in this study. bamboo & rattan 3.0 0. Putrescibles 6In and plastics are the two main categories.5 58.3 Rags 4. Bulky waste Bulky waste refers to white and brown goods.2 9.2 59. white and brown goods are also considered special items and collected on special trips at regular intervals by the waste collection authorities.

Among the plastic recyclables.S. S. Guangzhou Yearbook 1999). The main differences in the domestic waste streams of the four cities are that: a) Guangzhou has the least paper and metal contents. Composition of recyclables in Guangzhou (1999) in Fig. Chung. 1. 2010 . this has risen to ¥32514 (Statistical Yearbook of Guangzhou 1997. In 1998. An explanation usually given is that vegetable produce sold in Guangzhou is not thoroughly pre-processed to eliminate the inedible parts. during the characterisation process. Fig. The former is probably a result of the highly efficient paper and metal recovery system in Guangzhou. source of data for Dublin: Dennison et al. Discussion Waste composition Table 3 states the waste composition of Guangzhou in 1994 and 1999. a traditional trend in the waste stream of Guangzhou (see Table 3). Therefore. hazardous substances.s derived from Guangzhou Yearbook 1995 and Guangzhou Yearbook 1999). “fair” and “poor” recycling values. such as plastics. making the leachate from these newer landfills (with less alkaline ashes and fine materials) more toxic. Dublin and Heidelberg. the waste stream of Guangzhou is similar to the other cities compared. However.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. 8 The per capita nominal GDP of Guangzhou in 1994 was ¥15497 and in 1998. Other than having an implication on the physical make-up of the waste stream. especially coloured plastic bags. 480 Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. 1996a. however. tend to be more mobile. The domestic waste composition of Guangzhou. S. 1. 1999) Fig. The high putrescible content is. it was found that only a 7In 1994. source for Heidelberg: Blight et al. a medium income community in South Africa. in the waste stream. Such changes in the waste composition are found to be consistent with the trend of increasing domestic use of fossil gas fuel to replace solid fuel for heating and cooking purposes in Guangzhou7 and with the belief that economic growth8 tends to increase the proportion of manufactured materials. 2. C.2% of the households were using gas fuel (fig. such a change has an additional implication on pollution control at the landfills. Dublin and Heidelberg. (Source of data for Hong Kong: Environmental Protection Department 1999a. paper and rags. there has been a decrease in the sand and ash content of the waste but increases were found in the plastic. The proportion of putrescibles reduced slightly but still made up the majority of the waste stream. paper and rags waste. and b) the amount of putrescible waste is the highest. Hong Kong. It is also possible that passive sorting on the putrescible waste has overrepresented its share in the waste stream as even the finest sorting process will not be able to pick out all the non-putrescible matter in the remaining waste. Other than that. the majority is made up of plastic bags. such as heavy metals. Recyclable contents The researchers originally intended to further classify the recyclables according to the level of contamination and homogenity of the materials into recyclables having “good”. 99. about 84% of the households in Guangzhou were using fossil gas fuel with the remaining 16% using coal. which represent 47% of the total recyclables. Poon Fig. the acid neutralisation capacity of the landfill decreases. 2 compares the domestic waste composition of Guangzhou. Over the four years. Andreas & Bilitewski (1999) found that as the ash content of waste decreases through time.sagepub. Hong Kong. Calculations show that about 25% of the purchased fresh vegetable matter is discarded by Guangzhou citizens (Guangzhou Construction Committee & Guangzhou Environmental Health Bureau 1999).

personal hygiene items and liquid paper board. about 51. Fig. product manufacturers/packagers and waste generators alike have important roles to play in enhancing the recyclability of materials. Householders tended to use the plastic bags as trash bags and tended to put discards in unwanted containers before putting out for waste collection. source of data for Dublin: Dennison et al. the surface was contaminated with fines.s 3a and 3b compare the recyclable contents in the domestic waste streams in Guangzhou. source of data for Guangzhou: authors) major issue in mainland China.Characterisation of municipal solid waste and its recyclable contents of Guangzhou very small proportion (less than 5%) of the recyclables could be considered good. But all phenomena together confirmed that in addition to a source separation network. A closer examination of Fig.sagepub. Hong Kong and Dublin The research team was not able to determine which of the above reasons was the main cause of the low recyclability of materials in the waste stream. 3b. Dennison 1996a). and has already exceeded those of other more developed Western cities (Fig. This contributed to the low recyclability of this category of products. 2). Hong Kong and Dublin. Plastics in the domestic waste stream of Guangzhou. 2.5% respectively of the waste matters are recyclables in the domestic waste stream (EPD 1999a. The presence of composite materials. The waste and litter from plastic products has been dubbed the “white pollution”. It was also noted that even the supposedly “dry” recyclables were found to be considerably wetted and. Previous surveys found that paper and metals are popular items set aside for redemption at private recycling depots (see Chung & Poon 2000). Hong Kong. A substantial proportion of the materials in the “other paper” category consisted of diapers. 1996. Cross-contamination resulting from mixed waste collection and transportation with putrescibles: paper waste. 2010 481 . thus.4% and 50. film plastics and rags were particularly vulnerable to such contamination. recyclables accounted for 31. The proportion of plastic waste as a whole in Guangzhou is only slightly less than its more urbanised counterpart. Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. Non-plastic recyclables As previously reported (Table 4). 3a. In Hong Kong and Dublin. Fig. On top of this. and 3. Hong Kong and Dublin (Source of data for Hong Kong: EPD 1999a. The lower percentage of recyclables in Guangzhou is likely a result of the more intensive profit-driven recovery activities by the Guangzhou householders. The disposal habits of householders. another plausible reason for the lower newspaper content in the waste stream of Guangzhou is that newspapers in mainland China are generally printed in thinner issues. Plastic recyclables and plastic waste management Management and control of plastic waste has become a Fig.2% of the domestic waste stream.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. 3b reveals that plastic beverage containers are found in relatively small proportion and the majority in the waste stream is film plastic products. Non-plastic recyclables in the domestic waste stream of Guangzhou. Three causes were noted: 1.

identification of waste type in a field sorting survey according to the above approach may be difficult. “paper” is no longer an obviously recyclable material under this classification. In Germany (Federal Environmental Agency 1998). in fact. a high rate of battery consumption would be a waste management concern. S. such an inference cannot reflect the real recyclability of the waste stream should a substantial proportion of waste items identified as “paper” is. To classify these composite items using the traditional classification framework without more detailed testing and measurements reduces the accuracy of characterisation findings. footwear made with plastics may appear like leather shoes. Uncertainties Other than the errors that were reported earlier. Since the use of mercury and other toxic heavy metals in consumer batteries is still legally permitted in China. there are a number of uncertainties to be addressed for is derived from the daily waste generation rate of 4. An alternative is to make the composite waste materials a category of its own. users of the information would have better understanding of the recyclability of these materials. This is very close to the national estimate. plastics. This is in fact the only way to infer the recyclable content of waste for Guangzhou in the past (see Lu 1997).54 kg/capita yr–1 of battery waste are generated in Guangzhou. and glass. 2010 . among others. “packaging composite” and “composite” (household appliances made of a number of materials. Chung. S. It is not at all obvious whether it should be treated as a metal item or a plastic item. plastics. Another example is a household cleaning tool such as a mop that is made with textile.sagepub. However. Thus. from the proportion of these materials in the waste stream. This can limit the variation in the heat values of the composite materials within each category.13% of the domestic waste stream is made up of consumer batteries (see Table 3). And this is exactly what was found with the domestic paper waste stream of Guangzhou. It appears that the disposal rate of consumer batteries in Guangzhou has been approaching that of developed cities and China as a whole is also consuming more consumer batteries than some developed areas.000 tonnes a year or about 0. (1996b) found that the domestic waste stream of Dublin consisted of only 0. In comparison. about 2. Dennison et al. But the same mop. the natural approach is to treat the generic material groups in the waste. consumption of consumer batteries in mainland China is around 600. Since 0. Two or more generic materials can be manufactured to form a new material. the stand-alone “composite materials” group can be subdivided into two categories: “composite with metals or glass” and “composite without metals or glass”. Since composite materials as such are difficult to be materially recycled. liquid paper board or nappies.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. three types of composites 9This in the domestic waste stream are separately measured: “disposable nappies”. Batteries The heavy metal contents in consumer batteries have been a worldwide concern.555 tonnes for the domestic and commercial streams in 1998 (Lei 1999). Another defect with this traditional classification system is the false impression created for the recyclability of the waste stream. metals. As such. Poon Composite materials With the increasing application of composite materials in products and product packaging. wood and metals. also known as “bulky waste” in other waste characterisation studies). At the same time. Determination of the major material constituent (by weight) in a field survey situation has become increasingly arbitrary also owing to the extensive applications of modern manufacturing technology. One example is to fit a steel teaspoon with a large plastic handle into the traditional framework. such as paper.03% of consumer batteries in 1991. can be classified as wood waste.161 tonnes per year9 or 0.5 kg/capita yr–1. such as fibreglass. This appears to be a more reasonable approach as making arbitrary judgement in the field for most composite items can be avoided. 482 Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. The textile part of a mop (after absorbing moisture) may outweigh the wooden or plastic portion and be required to be grouped into the rags category. According to a rough estimate (Ke 1998). Modern manufacturing and polymerisation technologies are also able to make different materials look alike. C. if it absorbs less moisture. In order not to compromise on the informative level of waste composition data by deviating from the traditional classification system.S. the heat value of mixed waste can be estimated. One of the reasons for classifying waste according to the traditional framework is that different generic materials have unique heat values. as recyclable items. Whenever there is a lack of further detail on the recyclable contents of the waste stream.

it is not at all wrong to say that the leachate from modern solid waste streams is more toxic than in olden days. wastewater treatment facilities and the use of engineering measures to reduce leachate at present and future landfills. as scavenging of recyclables is also taking place at the landfill proper in Guangzhou.6% waste loss in the characterisation process. Knowing these would give insights to how and at what point source separation should be carried out and what roles household waste management education should play in enhancing extensive recycling. For Guangzhou. what our study shows are. from colourants in polymer. the importance of planning for leachate collection. the waste and recyclable contents without such landfill scavenging activities. the infrequent calibration of the weighing equipment may be a significant cause of the 6. Second. Generally. the quantity and types of heavy metal used in the batteries are not covered in this study. To find out the real cause of contamination. if not more. However. biodegradable. In our survey. Ash content and pollution control in landfills Management and control of film plastic waste With the rapid phasing out of solid fuel in domestic use. the current waste policy in Guangzhou is dominated by the measure10 to render the relatively minor plastic waste stream. However. despite the ban. Waste characterisation studies provide information on the properties and make-up of the waste and waste stream at the point of disposal. A number of inferences pertinent to the management of waste can be derived from such an experience. Thus. therefore. The effectiveness of the ban on non-biodegradable EPS food containers has been broadly criticised (see Zhao 1998). Visual inspection of individual waste materials at the field indicated that even the paper and plastics are moisture laden. are more likely to be leached from the waste and found in the leachate. From the findings reported in previous sections.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. further studies on the chemical compositions of the waste stream in Guangzhou are desirable. it is difficult to obtain accurate data for recyclables scavenged from the landfill owing to the unwillingness of the recyclable contractor to disclose such information. this would mean that a higher landfill compaction ratio. etc. Our study has pinpointed that film plastic waste is equally a concern. although such an error can easily be reduced in future studies. it is found that the waste stream in Guangzhou contains quite a high level of consumer batteries and plastics. ash contents in the waste stream have decreased rapidly. Implications on waste management of Guangzhou The role of composting Cross-contamination and household waste management education Our present study shows that the waste in Guangzhou has high moisture contents. namely. plating of utensils. Thus. However. the heavy metals from batteries. it is no false alarm that reducing the generation of plastic waste should be of top priority in Guangzhou. putrescibles have been the major component in the domestic waste stream of Guangzhou. In particular. 2010 483 . in 10 See the law on banning the use. more extensive leachate collection systems and more efficient leachate treatment systems should be aimed at in the future. Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. it was not known if they were wetted by the householders before mixed waste collection or due to mixed collection.Characterisation of municipal solid waste and its recyclable contents of Guangzhou improving future solid waste characterisation in Guangzhou. large scale or centralised composting should be able to achieve effective diversion from the disposal facilities in Guangzhou given the implementation of source separation programmes. it would be necessary to carry out studies in earlier points of the waste flow such as at the door-to-door collection stage. these containers were still commonly found and used. although the quantity of battery waste is known. First. and sale of non-biodegradable food containers which was enacted in 1997 (A Compendium of Environmental Protection Laws 1994-1997). The actual proportion of recyclables landfilled should be less than what we have found.sagepub. Third. manufacturing. the EPS food containers. Without the alkaline ashes as the agent for fixing the metals in general waste matters. Thus. heavy metals contents and the level of chlorine in the waste stream are also important data for planning waste management facilities. This underscores From the present study.

imposing a product charge on film plastic products and packaging should also be considered. It is recommended that only measurements deriving from the same level in the waste disposal route can be aggregated. carrying out a chemical composition analysis on the waste stream would be desirable before planning for future waste management facilities. this will have an implication on the role of household waste management education. Sampling recyclable contents Conclusion This is largely ignored in mainland China. Sampling points In Guangzhou. “producer responsibility” measures. it also indicates the necessity to set out corresponding waste management measures. it is expected that waste characterisation studies will play a more important role in Composites Generally. in Guangzhou. Chung. 2010 . In view of this. waste collection and public cleansing.com at University of Newcastle on July 16. Even in more developed countries. S. such as paper. Some of the suggested modifications to the traditional approach on waste characterisation studies have implications in a much wider context. etc. However. bulky waste cannot be readily analysable with normal household wastes. as well as in other developing country cities.S. waste scavenging is common in all parts of the waste flow. This section focuses on addressing these limitations and deficiencies and. As discussed above. Particularly of concern are the high percentages of film plastics and consumer batteries in the waste stream when compared to other modern cities. S. a number of deficiencies and limitations are noted on the characterisation methodology and classification system commonly used in mainland China. Such data will also be more useful for monitoring the trend of the generation of such difficult-to-recycle materials and become one of the decision-making bases for introducing. it is of no surprise that waste characterisation has not been assigned enough importance. with the landfill crisis and the growing awareness of the need to reduce and recycle. C. it is urged that recyclable content survey shall be considered an important extension of traditional waste characterisation studies. With the increasing use of composite materials. in most part of mainland China where even the basics of waste management. Where weighbridges are available. Knowing the waste characteristics is important to waste policy making and monitoring. Poon waste management terms. Measuring the moisture contents of different categories of waste materials at various nodes of waste collection will also show the effect of mixed collection on cross-contamination of recyclables. sample sizes and to categorise waste materials. are not carried out in a satisfactory manner. such information is not always available. Our experience has shown that combining recyclable content surveys with routine waste characterisation studies will only marginally increase the costs of the survey while valuable information can be obtained. It was found that the waste composition of Guangzhou has experienced two major changes in the past half a decade: a decrease in the ash content and an increase in the share and absolute amount of manufactured product wastes. However. Thus. 484 Waste Management & Research Downloaded from http://wmr. if necessary. are recyclables. Bulky waste From our experience. whenever possible. While this is generally believed as a sign of urbanisation and economic growth. a simple classification system may need to be revised. In the course of this study. it is taken for granted that materials classified as paper. suggestions for improvement are recommended. plastics.sagepub. Implications on future waste characterisation studies in mainland China The review on the way domestic waste characterisation studies have been carried out shows that there is no single standardised way to select samples. Other than advocating source separation and greater recyclability. metals. It is recommended that the traditional classification scheme for waste characterisation studies shall be modified to include two additional waste groups: “composite with glass/metal” and “composite without glass/metal”. such as waste-to-energy plants. it would be more appropriate to estimate the proportion of bulky waste in a waste stream by measuring the bulky waste and normal household waste streams separately. for example. The data set will then be a better indication of the recyclability of materials in the disposal waste streams. glass and plastics.

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