Not a load of rubbish! Waste treatment plant turns into a tourist destination

Tian Shengjie
A waste treatment plant in Shanghai has broken the "foul and filthy" stereotype to become a wonderland for wild animals, even attracting residents to take their wedding photos.
Tian Shengjie

Conventional wisdom has it that waste treatment plants are a hive of foul odor, sewage and flies. But a plant in Shanghai has broken this stereotype. It has become a wonderland for wild animals, even attracting some local residents to take their wedding photos.

The Laogang Renewable Resources Recycling Center in the Pudong New Area is the world's biggest house waste incinerator and China's largest treatment plant for solid waste. The 15.3-square-kilometer base, established in 1985, handles over 50 percent of Shanghai's household trash.

But in the plant's ecological garden, sika deer can be seen strolling, fish swim in the tranquil river, and birds flutter among the trees. Every June, the purple verbena blooms on the mountains, which were built on a former landfill.

Not a load of rubbish! Waste treatment plant turns into a tourist destination
Ti Gong

In the Laogang Renewable Resources Recycling Center's ecological garden, purple verbena blooms on the mountains, which were built on a former landfill.

"The 5,500-mu landfill (about 366.7 hectares) was closed in 2009. After ecological remediation, it has become a home to many wildlife, such as little egrets and moorhen," according to Wu Jinzhi, deputy director of plant's waste disposal exhibition hall.

"Fruit trees, like oranges and persimmons, have been planted for wild animals in the garden. Staff members share the spare fruits as well," Wu Yuefeng, deputy general manager of the plant, said.

"We have also found many newborn cubs in the garden. The happy life of these animals shows the harmonious coexistence between humans and nature."

In the future, species identification equipment will be deployed in the plant to figure out the number and variety of creatures, he added.

A wetland park, mound park and other green lands have also been built in the plant, with its green coverage rate reportedly exceeding 50 percent.

Not a load of rubbish! Waste treatment plant turns into a tourist destination
Tian Shengjie / SHINE

Sika deers in the ecological garden of the plant in the Pudong New Area.

Last month, it became one of 69 national industrial tourism demonstration bases selected by the Chinese culture and tourism ministry and the only one in Shanghai.

Sections of the plant have been opened to some schools and departments in recent years, such as the waste disposal exhibition hall, with more than 100,000 guests visiting.

Zhou Yuele, director of the plant's comprehensive management department, told Shanghai Daily that they are involved in conversations with local travel agencies. Next year, people will be able to enter the base, understanding the local waste disposal process and garbage-sorting achievements.

"A better understanding of garbage treatment can encourage residents to insist on garbage sorting and work together for the environment," Wu said.

"We are also formulating travel routes to develop industrial tourism at the base without affecting daily garbage treatment," Zhou added.

Not a load of rubbish! Waste treatment plant turns into a tourist destination
Tian Shengjie / SHINE

The plant's ecological garden

In the past, the plant was dubbed a 'garbage dock' by nearby residents because it was dirty, messy and smelly. The transformation, to some extent, was due to the local garbage-sorting regulation, which went into effect on July 1, 2019.

"Garbage is misplaced treasure," observed Shi Yi, an official of the plant.

He said starting from 2021, all household waste in Shanghai does not need to be landfilled or stacked high. More waste can be reused based on different classifications.

According to a recent official report, the recycling and utilization rate of domestic waste resources in Shanghai has increased from 35 percent in 2020 to 42 percent this year.

It is worth noting that the recycling and utilization rate of wet waste is almost 100 percent at the plant, Wu revealed.

The plant is constructing the third phase of a bioenergy recycling project, scheduled for completion in May 2025.

Not a load of rubbish! Waste treatment plant turns into a tourist destination
Ti Gong

The digital layout of the three phases of the plant's bioenergy recycling base.

When the third phase is completed, it will become the world's largest bioenergy recycling base, handling 4,500 tons of wet waste per day. Now the total capacity is 2,500 tons a day.

Black soldier fly larvae, a natural waste recycler, is an important "helper" in the bioenergy recycling base. About 500 million worms at the base can eat 50 tons of wet waste every day.

"The worms cannot eat plastic and big bones. Thanks to the garbage-sorting project, wet waste can be provided for the worms without too many pre-treatment processes," Wu noted.

In the automated and intelligent industrial chain of the base, worms and their feces can be separated. The feces can become organic fertilizer minus the heavy metals. The worms can be given to aquaculture enterprises and for animal husbandry.

"We are transforming wet waste into high-quality protein," said Zhang Weitao, an official of the base. "We have received some positive feedback from companies. After eating our worms, their crabs grow fast and can be sold earlier than before."

At present, approximately 50 million worms can be harvested every day. After the third phase is put into operation, this kind of high-quality protein can be provided to more enterprises, he added.

Not a load of rubbish! Waste treatment plant turns into a tourist destination
Tian Shengjie / SHINE

Black soldier fly larvae

Not a load of rubbish! Waste treatment plant turns into a tourist destination
Ti Gong

The automated and intelligent industrial chain for black soldier fly larvae

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