Is Organic the Solution for Beijing?

When urban dwellers in Beijing started finding rat meat in their mutton and cadmium in their rice products, they knew it was time for a change.

Endless food scandals throughout the past few years have Chinese consumers growing suspicious and weary of their grocery store produce —enough so for more well-off families to begin seeking organic alternatives to their traditional foods.

For example, Catherine Ho Wai-man and her family have stopped buying produce from neighborhood markets after Ho found “a suspicious white substance leaching out from the greens she had bought at a stall.”

As an alternative, the family has started growing their own greens in the backyard of their home, located in a northern Beijing suburb. In the winter, the family shops for organic produce at high-end supermarkets, willing to accept the higher costs in exchange for ensured food safety.

Many urban residents in Beijing, however, live in tiny apartments and lack the garden space and economic resources to adopt the Ho family’s solution. While the government struggles to live up to its pledge to protect its people from hazardous foods, many city-dwellers have taken extra precautions with washing, peeling, and boiling their produce before consuming or cooking it.

Some city residents have found solutions in eco-farms, which produce organic foods that can be delivered to your home for around $20 per week. The eco-farms aim to bridge the trust gap between consumers who fear for their personal health and safety and producers who need to sell their food.

The Tianjin eco-farm, for example, uses organic farming to alleviate social pressures in Beijing while helping the environment. It accomplishes this goal by bringing together two groups -- a Beijing-based NGO that aims to help the underprivileged by offering skills training and a Japanese environmental group that promotes organic farming—in a joint venture.

By forming such partnerships, these eco-farms benefit the Chinese economy, food safety, and environment at the same time.

China Offers Work Placements And Mixed Marriage Incentives As Solutions For Its Xinjiang Problems

On October 29, in Urumqi, 489 special travelers climbed on the slow train to Guangdong that takes 50 hours to cross the whole of China diagonally. All of them where Uighurs. They were making this trip in order to start a new life, which was a part of a national plan to spread Uighurs across the country.

The concept had been validated by Xi Jinping at a two-day forum on Xinjiang in May. Local governments were invited to offer young Uighurs work and educational opportunities so as “to enhance mutual understanding.” As one of China's wealthiest provinces, Guangdong had committed itself to take 5,000 of these individuals up to 2016. This year, a total of 1,000 have departed.

This scheme has been carefully prepared at both ends of China. A similar attempt had been tried five years ago but ended in failure. At the time, in a toy factory in Shaoguan (Guangdong), 800 Uighurs from Shufu (Xinjiang) had been attacked by the rest of the workers, mostly Han Chinese, who accused them of raping two Chinese women. Two Uighurs were killed and 120 were injured in a stampede that occurred during this incident. Protests had then followed in Xinjiang, leading to a very short and extremely violent upheaval in Urumqi that left 200 dead.

Some of the 489 workers from Xinjiang prepare to board as they set off for Guangdong province to . [+] start new jobs. (Huang Guobao / Xinhua)

So before once again taking up this scheme, the Chinese government spent five years reflecting on what had gone wrong earlier and trying to fix the problems.

The main step was carefully screening the future migrants in order to weed out notorious extremists. All those accepted for the program then underwent training on ethnic unity, law, and Han Chinese etiquette and manners. From Xinjiang, one local official would accompany 50 of the migrants, who are granted renewable permits to stay as long as they wish.

Concerning the plan’s quality and its chances of working, James Leibold, a foreign scholar with considerable expertise on Xinjiang, believes that many hurdles will have to be overcome on the path to success. For instance, the six Chinese companies who had agreed to accept the Uighur employees probably did not wholeheartedly acquiesce to the plan. They did so only after having their arms twisted and being guaranteed subsidies from the local government. And while the objective is to achieve a degree of mingling among the workers' "social groups," local officials will arguably wish to keep them separate, so as to avoid any trouble.

Another strange measure launched two months ago (beginning of September) is the offer by local governments in Xinjiang, such as the one in Qiemo, to give out 10.000 yuan per year for five years to couples in mixed marriages. This is a lot of money in a territory where average income last year totaled 7,600 yuan. Adding this grant to the regular income of such a couple could quickly make them rich, at least by local standards.

Another series of benefits go beyond this annual payment. For example, 90% of the medical bills of these mixed couples will be covered by free insurance, and they will also receive housing benefits if the union lasts more than three years. Other perks include exemption from school fees within the county, a 3,000 yuan yearly scholarship for their children reaching college followed by another one of 5,600 yuan for those children reaching university.

This scheme, which has also been applied in Tibet, seeks to overcome the divide between Han Chinese and ethnic minorities in order to “ increase interethnic contact, exchange and mingling ” ( 交往交流交融 ) and was officially ratified at the Second Central Xinjiang Work Forum.

But can it work? Probably not, as it confuses some key issues. While it would be more than nice for young eloping people from both ethnic sides to receive such goodies, such benefits certainly cannot alone lead the potential couples to forget about the mistrust and prejudices which exist between Uighurs and Han Chinese. Besides, marriages based completely on money tend to be less durable than one based on true love and respect.

Conclusion: Incentives for mixed marriages, placement of Uighurs throughout Han Chinese regions and the high speed train to Urumqi, are all political investments by China’s rulers to secure peace and harmony among the troubled Uighur ethnic minority group. They leave no doubt about the total commitment of the CCP to solve the problem and succeed at both developing and integrating the Uighurs.

The problem here, however, is twofold. The Uighurs were not consulted on any of these initiatives and none of the measures address their core grievance, namely the feeling that they are being deprived of their land and culture. Thus, Beijing’s new palliatives for the Xinjiang problem will at worst fail and at best become just one element of a broader and more effective approach to winning Uighur loyalty. And that comprehensive solution has yet to be advanced.

Basics of Mixing Hydroponic Nutrients

In essence, a plant doesn’t care where it gets its nutrients from, be it man-made, organic, or something you produce in your home. All they care about is that they receive all they need to grow to their full potential.

When grown in soil, plants can be picky and absorb what they want, but in a hydroponic system, it is up to the grower to make sure all these nutrients are available in the correct quantities.

Every single plant requires macronutrients and micronutrients to flourish. However, the required ratios of these will be very different on the types of plants you are growing. There are many differences in these homemade formulas, so making one batch of one type may deliver a different ratio to your next one.

You can make a nutrient solution from nutrient salts, these can be easier to make because you can fine-tune your mixture depending on the weights of salts you add. If using these, you must keep these salts cool and dry, as any moisture absorbed will affect their weight.

One other thing to know is many nutrient solutions come in either 2 or 3 part bottles, so when making your own, in some of the following methods, you will look at making either a batch of two or three solutions.

Another thing to note is you will need measuring spoons, a good set of weighing scales and rubber gloves for the crystalline chemicals in some of the formulas.

Finally, purchased nutrients often come with added pH buffers. Because you are making your own, you will need a digital pH-measuring pen and pH UP, and pH Down solution. While measuring your pH levels, you can find your EC levels will be out of sync, so another device you will need is an EC measuring meter.

Hydroponic Nutrient Mix Formula #1

This is a one-part mix, which has been proven to deliver good results. However, you will need to keep an eye on your plants to make sure they show no signs of deficiencies or nutrient burn.

This formula is sufficient for a 5-gallon container full of water. One thing to note is this formula is intended for non-circulating systems, as they are no longer diluted before adding. This makes them ideal for small systems where you have your roots sitting in the solution such as DWC or raft systems.

This can be one of the easiest to make and takes very little time. Depending on your plants, this solution will need to be disposed of when you harvest from your systems as the salt/EC levels will increase. If there are any signs of deficiency, you can use one of the later supplementary formulas to deliver some extra nutrition.

Hydroponic Nutrient Mix Formula #2

  • Potassium nitrate: 255g
  • Calcium Phosphate: 198g
  • Magnesium Sulfate: 170g
  • Powdered Ammonium Sulfate: 43g
  • Monocalcium Phosphate: 113g
  • Iron Sulfate: 1/2 teaspoon

Mix your dry ingredients together to form a powder, you can then add 10g of this nutrient powder per gallon of nutrient rich water required. This dry mix is highly concentrated and can cause skin irritation so wear goggles and suitable protective clothes.

All your pH levels and EC levels will need checking after addition. For tomato growers, you can add some of the ‘Farmers Friend Recipe’ or the ‘Gift from the Sea’ mix to deliver a well balanced set of nutrients.

Hydroponic Nutrient Mix Formula #3 Compost Tea Recipe

This is the first homemade nutrient mix that can be classed as organic. It takes a little more effort than others take, but if you have spare space, and then this can really give your plants a growth boost.

  1. When making a compost heap, you should be looking at using half-green waste and half-brown waste. Green waste includes grass cuttings, green leaves, food waste from the kitchen. The brown waste side includes straw or hay, dead leaves, old papers (not shiny magazine paper), wood chippings.
  2. When you have your heap, turn this every few weeks so all the materials can break down and the bacteria will do its work.
  3. When your compost is ready, all you need to do is add two large shovels full to a large 5-gallon bucket. Fill this with water and let it steep for three days.
  4. If you have access to aquarium water all the better, if not try to avoid any chemically treated water. Rainwater is also a good option so begin harvesting when it rains.
  5. Once your mixture has been soaking for three days, all you need to do is pour out the liquid and strain it to remove all traces of your compost sediment. This sediment can be added back on your compost heap.
  6. When it comes to using this liquid, you need to use 1/2 a gallon for every 50 gallons of water in your tank.

While this is good enough to use on its own, you can also add some of the next two recipes or some of the homemade fertilizer or growth booster.

Hydroponic Nutrient Formula #4 The Farmers Friend

  • Seed meal: 4 lbs.
  • Agricultural lime: 1lb and finely ground
  • Gypsum: 1lb
  • Dolomitic lime: 1lb
  • Bone meal: 1lb
  • Kelp (Seaweed): 1lb – you can use dried, just make sure it is not roasted.

To mix, all you need to do is add the ingredients into 5 gallons of water. Mix these until you have a thin consistency. Not all the ingredients may dissolve, so filtering before using is recommended.

When it comes to using this nutrient mix, all you need is to add 6-fluid ounces for each 100 gallons of water in your tank.

This mixture is ideal for large systems, so you might need to scale it back to fit a smaller system so you have enough made to use, and not left standing.

Hydroponic Nutrient Formula #5 Gift From the Sea

  1. All you need to do is take your seaweed, wrap it in cheesecloth, and tie it with twine. This prevents sediment settling in your water.
  2. Add 5 gallons of water into a bucket and add your seaweed bag.
  3. Leave this sitting in the sun for 5 days
  4. Add the 5 teaspoons of Epsom salts

Either you can add the entire contents into your hydroponic tank, or you can add it in one-gallon increments.

Like all nutrient mixes, you do need to measure your EC and pH levels to be on the safe side. This is even more crucial if you add any of the growth enhancers during your plants growth.

3. Neem Oil

Neem oil is made from the seeds and fruit of the evergreen neem tree, and it is powerful enough to kill powdery mildew in less than 24 hours. The oil works by disrupting the plant&aposs metabolism and stopping spore production. Neem oil is also a great insecticide and since spores can be carried by bugs, this oil is a great preventative treatment as well.

Mix 3 tbsp. of neem oil to one gallon of water, and spray onto affected plants every 7-14 days. Take precautions to avoid sunburning the leaves, and avoid spraying the plant&aposs buds and flowers.

3. Epsom Salt Enema

Epsom salts are available in most pharmacies and can also be found under the name magnesium sulfate. Epsom salts are commonly used in baths for the relief of muscle aches and pains but are often taken internally for relief from constipation. The high concentration of magnesium in Epsom salts causes a relaxation of the smooth muscles of the intestinal tract and promotes elimination of the colon’s contents.

Using Epsom salts in enema solutions is a faster and safer way to achieve effects than when taking the salts orally. An Epsom salt solution will increase the amount of water in the intestine because it draws water into the colon. This results in a more thorough cleansing of the intestinal tract. An Epsom salt enema is good to use when suffering from stubborn constipation.

Epsom Salt Enema Recipe:

Add the Epsom salts to warm water and mix well until all salts are dissolved. Administer the solution and retain for a comfortable amount of time.

Cautions and Considerations:

  • Do not administer Epsom salt enema solutions if you have stomach pain, nausea, or vomiting.
  • One tablespoon of Epsom salts contains approximately 35grams of magnesium sulfate. This is a lot! The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is around 300-400 milligrams. Excessive or improper use of Epsom salts can result in hypermagnesemia, a condition which can lead to death. These cases are extremely rare and such dangers are usually related to the oral ingestion of Epsom salts. Still, the risk of toxicity must be noted as some absorption of magnesium sulfate can occur while retaining the salts in the colon.

Call me stingy, or a cheapskate even, but when it comes to composting, pest repellents, and fertilizers, I prefer low-cost–even better if it’s free! It’s no longer a question whether organic fertilizer is best for your plants and garden. While you can easily purchase synthetic chemical fertilizers with faster results for your vegetables, they can have a devastating after-effect in your soil and environment. This is why secondary to frugality, I’m also thinking of long-term, sustainable solutions for my plants. If we’re of the same mind, you can help yourself to these homemade organic fertilizer recipes for your garden.

How To Make And Use Homemade Organic Fertilizer

Before we get to our homemade organic fertilizer recipes, it is important to analyze your soil or your garden first. Identifying any problems with your soil or your plants will help you address specific soil or plant needs.

1. Comfrey Liquid Fertilizer Recipe

Comfrey plants have long been recognized by gardeners as a great garden help with its high levels of essential nutrients and elements. You can use ‘bocking 14’ comfrey variety to make your homemade natural fertilizer.

Use a large bag to put the comfrey leaves. When harvesting, use gloves for your protection. The plant’s hairy leaves may cause skin rashes. Squash them into a large container with a wide lid, and leave covered for a few weeks.

After a few weeks, pour the liquefied comfrey into a container and label it. Keep it out of children’s reach. To use this as fertilizer, dilute 15:1 with rainwater. When using watering cans, water the soil and not the leaves.

2. Fish Fertilizer Recipe

Fortunately, you can make your own homemade fish fertilizer considering how expensive it is. This nitrogen-rich fertilizer is great for boosting plant growth and stimulating the microorganisms in the soil.

You can make fish fertilizers from store-bought fish through a fish emulsion. Any fish will do, so those you can get for free are more than able to the job. You can also use the scraps from cleaning fish for this recipe. Take a bucket and fill about 2/3 with fish scraps or pieces and layer with an equal part of brown organic matter. You can also add in molasses and seaweed to boost nutrients.

Stir the mixture occasionally for several weeks and it will be ready to use. Strain the liquid and use the scraps or whole pieces for composting. Prepare one cup of fish fertilizer for every gallon of water and your fertilizer is ready to be poured over your soil or sprayed on the leaves.

3. Eggshell Fertilizer Recipe

It’s no secret eggshells are a rich source of calcium, which is helpful to your vegetable garden. Apparently, tomatoes and peppers respond especially well to eggshells in the soil. Make an eggshell fertilizer tea by boiling some 20 pieces of clean and dry eggshells.

Let it stand overnight and strain the liquid to get the tea. You can also reuse the eggshells with any of these ways to use eggshells in the garden.

4. Fertilizer Recipe To Amend Low pH Soil

This may sound unappealing but wood ash and human urine make a great fertilizer recipe which can boost your soil and plant growth. Wood ash is rich in calcium and magnesium, while urine is high in nitrogen, essential elements that are ideal for plant growth.

However, it is also important to note that the urine should be organic and not collected from a source on medications. Research shows that when both materials are combined, urine and ash fertilizer can increase the yield in tomatoes. You can take this inspiration for your own homemade organic recipe.

5. Compost Tea Fertilizer

Amazingly, compost is not limited to growing plants or amending your soil, you can also make a fertilizer out of your homemade compost. Find out first how you can make your own homemade organic compost here to make your compost tea.

Your homemade organic compost is rich in most of the essential nutrients needed for fast and healthy plant growth. You can follow the step-by-step guide for making a homemade organic fertilizer from compost or a compost tea.

6. Potassium Fertilizer Recipe

It’s no secret bananas are rich in potassium, but did you know banana peelings also contain phosphorus, calcium, manganese, sodium, magnesium sulfur, and 42% potassium when dried? These are the wonderful essential elements your soil will get with a banana fertilizer.

To make some banana peelings homemade fertilizer, you will need banana peels, a tablespoon of Epsom salt for every 4 peelings, 3 eggshells, and water. Dry your banana peels as well as your eggshells after washing them clean. Once your banana peels are dried, process them with the eggshells in a food processor or blender until they are a fine powder. Add the powder and Epsom salt into a spray bottle with water then shake to mix.

You can apply your fertilizer to the soil or the base of the plant and not directly on the leaves of the plants.

7. Weed Tea Fertilizer Recipe

Like the weeds that they are, they can really be annoying, growing under our very own feet. But like grass fertilizers, weeds such as chickweed, nettles, and horsetail are high in nitrogen.

Fill a 5-gallon bucket with 2/3 parts of freshly pulled weeds then top off with a few inches of water. Let the mixture to sit for three days at room temperature and stir it at least once a day. After three days, you can strain the liquid and dilute it with equal parts of water.

You can apply fertilizer by spraying it directly on your plants for faster growth.

Follow this video to make a complete homemade organic fertilizer:

There you have it, frugal gardeners! Homemade organic fertilizers you can make on a budget or for free. Raid your home, your garden and your community for free sources to make your own organic fertilizers. Happy gardening, green thumbs!
How’re your vegetables doing with your own homemade organic recipe? I’m interested to hear all about it in the comments section below.

Before you can make an organic fertilizer from compost, make an organic compost first. Find out the natural ingredients you can use to make organic compost here.

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter for more smart gardening ideas!

Ways Forward from China’s Urban Waste Problem

Urban waste management is a crucial component of our constant interaction with the environment within and around our cities. Managing waste efficiently and sustainably is a unique challenge for us all that depends on development trends, socioeconomic composition, political situation, and a host of other factors.

This dependence is especially evident in China, where the past 30 years of rapid growth in size and population of cities has brought about mass lifestyle transitions as Chinese people migrate from rural to urban areas. The massive shifts to consumerist lifestyles by millions of Chinese have produced tremendous quantities of waste, while underdeveloped public waste management services have become severely stressed. On the surface, addressing China&rsquos urban waste may seem like an increasingly daunting task. However, I believe that if sustainably managed and reclaimed, China&rsquos urban waste stream will be a valuable resource and a solution to urban social justice issues, making Chinese cities healthier human and natural ecosystems.

Landfill in the outskirts of Beijing. Photo: Liwen Chen

China&rsquos urban waste problem

China produces around 300 million tons of waste a year, the large majority of which comes from cities. Currently, Chinese urban waste management services generally collect unsorted municipal solid waste (MSW) to be disposed of in landfills or waste incinerators around the periphery of the city or further out into the countryside. Even if separate bins are available for recyclable and non-recyclable waste, government waste services do not have the capacity to operate a recycling system the separated waste is bundled together into one truck all the same.

The composition and quantity of Chinese urban waste creates many problems for landfills and waste incineration. Chinese landfills are similar to other landfills around the world in that organic matter does not decompose properly in the landfill&rsquos anaerobic conditions. This results in the release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Since most of the solid urban waste stream consists of organic waste, the Chinese urban waste stream is an inefficient fuel for incineration. Even if proper management systems for composting, recycling, and further landfill waste reduction were put in place, a societal shift is still necessary for urban residents to change their consumption and waste disposal behaviors for waste management systems to be effective.

LEFT: these public waste receptacles that seem to suggest that the municipal government manages a recycling program. In fact, trash from bins such as these are usually dumped into one load and sent to landfills and/or waste incinerators. Photo: Judy Li RIGHT: mixed waste at a landfill in the outskirts of Beijing. Photo: Liwen Chen

The human face of China&rsquos informal recycling sector

It is important to consider the human element of China&rsquos urban waste system to understand how it affects the livability of Chinese cities. In addition to poor waste collection infrastructure, investment, and enforcement, the current waste system in China perpetuates social inequalities for rural-to-urban migrants who enter urban spaces with low socioeconomic statuses. Landfills and incubators are pushed to the outskirts of the city where poor migrants live, bringing along toxic fumes of incineration, disturbances from trucking of waste, and pollution of water, air, and soil. This leaves the wealthier inner city areas relatively clean, while the pollution impacts of their waste are exported to small towns and poor communities that are socially, politically, and economically marginalized from the city. Beijing Besieged by Waste, a documentary directed by Wang Jiuliang, vividly portrays this phenomenon.

A large number of migrants dominate urban recycling of any valuable materials, and make a living off of hand picking through rubbish bins outside buildings, along streets, etc. to collect paper, cardboard, plastic, metals, electronic waste, or anything of recyclable value. This informal recycling sector is extremely efficient. It is estimated that approximately 0.56-0.93% of the Chinese urban population, approximately 3.3-5.6 million people, are involved in the informal recycling sector, and are responsible for recycling about 17-38% by weight of Chinese municipal solid waste. The informal recycling sector&rsquos contribution to urban waste management is significant even if the exact amount is unclear it has never been formally documented. For example, local waste experts and activists say that in Beijing alone there are around 200,000 informal collectors working seven days a week, collecting around 30% by weight of the total MSW. In cities all over China, informal collectors take advantage of the local governments&rsquo inability to provide adequate infrastructure, services, and education for a formal recycling system.

However, the migrants involved in this informal sector earn very little for the effort they spend collecting waste across the city. While urban recycling depends on their hard work, informal collectors are often older, still live in very poor conditions, and have jobs which become increasingly difficult as city areas expand. Informal recycling centers get shut-down by local governments and relocated farther and farther from the center of the growing city, increasing collectors&rsquo commute costs and time, and reducing the city&rsquos overall recycling rate. Experts in this field fear that as the informal sector faces greater challenges, urban recycling rates will decline, and recycling programs that governments establish without the informal sector will fail to be as efficient at reclaiming these valuable materials.

I took this picture with my phone one night while walking home from the subway. Informal collectors work day and night to collect valuable recyclable material for a living. Photo: Judy Li

Attempts to solve the problem

Chinese cities have tried different methods to address urban waste challenges. Several years ago, cities tried highly technical composting systems which were theoretically able to sort mixed waste mechanically and compost the biodegradable portion of the urban waste stream. Unfortunately, the system did not work as planned, and the toxic sludge output from the composting process was not only unusable, but also a public health hazard. Cities quickly abandoned the composting push, except for some small community-level composting pilot programs that have been successful in some areas.

More recently, there has been a large interest in waste incineration, fueled by the idea that burning waste will address landfill space limitation issues and the energy from incineration will generate revenue for the city. While some regard incineration as an acceptable practice in the U.S. and Europe, the unsorted Chinese urban waste stream, with high proportions of damp organic material, does not make for efficient incinerator fuel. Much more fuel is required to burn damp waste, increasing the costs and decreasing if not nullifying the profits from energy generation.

Waste incinerators in China are also poorly regulated, and the resulting toxic air pollution is an environmental and public health issue that affects nearby poor communities the most. The central government&rsquos recent interest in using anaerobic digesters to decompose organic waste and capture the methane as a fuel source is potentially a positive shift in the right direction. There are now many large-scale anaerobic digester pilot projects in China.

Waste incinerator in the outskirts of Beijing. Photo credit: Liwen Chen

Paper, plastic, metal and organic wastes are valuable resources for urban production and consumption, and should be efficiently and justly collected, processed and fed back into the urban ecosystem to establish a more circular economy.

Chinese cities&rsquo waste composition and social circumstances make adopting environmentally sustainable and socially just waste management practices a huge opportunity for addressing many Chinese urban issues.

Below are a few key areas that I think are among the most important for decreasing the environmental footprint of China&rsquos urban waste.

  • Food scraps can be fed to locally raised pigs. With pork being such a large and growing portion of the urban Chinese diet, local production of pork with locally produced food waste would decrease the environmental costs of pork production, feed production, and transportation.
  • Diverting organic waste from the landfill or incineration to instead support better managed composting and anaerobic digesters that can provide high quality, natural fertilizer to urban green spaces, and methane to be used as fuel source.
  • Government cooperation with the informal sector can yield a more efficient, regulated, and orderly urban recycling system that can help lift poor migrants out of poverty while bringing some revenue to the municipal government. Incorporation of the informal sector has been effective in other developing countries such as India and Mozambique.
  • Local business policies that encourage the reuse of recycled materials can decrease the raw resource consumption from producing products that urban residents consume. This would reduce the ecological footprint of urban lifestyles, which is critical for urban sustainability as more and more Chinese migrate to cities.
  • Public participation in reliable waste management data collection and disclosure when governments cannot provide this data themselves. Widely available data can help others diagnose the true extent of the urban waste issue. One idea is for urban residents to participate in data collection through smartphone applications that allow them to help pinpoint where nearby landfills, waste incinerators, anaerobic digesters, etc. are located. Such data could help inform future waste management priorities.

By adopting a more socially just, circular economy, and resource utilization approach towards urban waste management, Chinese cities can reduce their per capita environmental footprint, critical for reducing the environmental impacts of urbanization. Wiser resource utilization can help Chinese cities become more sustainable, and addressing environmental injustices of the current waste system is a step towards alleviating the social inequalities that influence livability of Chinese cities for all residents.

Of course, these changes will be difficult. Public policy and regulations are not enough. As is the case with most other issues in China and the developing world, there needs to be reliable and accessible data so we can begin to fully understand the scope of the problems and which solutions are effective. Governments must also enforce policies and create an efficient waste collection infrastructure. We also cannot forget that public education for China&rsquos economically and socially diverse population is no easy task, yet will be crucial for proper waste separation at the source of disposal. As Chinese cities continue to grow rapidly and strive to achieve world-class status, investment in sustainable urban waste management systems and a broader movement towards a circular economy model will be necessary for more environmentally friendly, livable, and sustainable cities.

Judy Li

About the Writer: Judy Li

Judy Li is a Princeton-in-Asia fellow with NRDC Beijing&rsquos China Sustainable Cities Program, focusing on low-carbon urbanization, smart growth planning, and urban sustainability. Her current work includes researching Chinese low-carbon urban development trends and examples, walkability and bikeability of Chinese cities, and sustainable urban waste management.

Related story

The Chinese government has now publicly confirmed its support for the Smog Free Project, so Roosegaarde is currently engaging with government officials and local designers to scale it up, to rid the whole city of its smog.

He is planning a "smog-free solution conference" to take place in Beijing, allowing Chinese designers to present their ideas.

"We have invited Chinese makers with their own smog-free solutions to talk about their work," he continued. "We're going to put them in a room, have some city officials, some young makers and discuss how we can make a whole city smog-free."

Photograph by Studio Roosegaarde

Roosegaarde also plans to take the project to other Chinese cities to hoover up smog.

"I was fighting for so long, to work with a team of engineers and scientists to make this happen," he said. "Now China's central government has declared its official support, that will allow us to make larger, permanent versions that will travel."

The aim from the start was to work out how to purify air on a large scale, rather than just in a small space &ndash so Roosegaarde has been campaigning for as much public support for the project as possible.

"I think a project like this is a local solution for parks, but the creative thinking and engaging other people is of course the way to engage a whole city," he said.

Roosegaarde has produced rings with the smog particles he has collected, which were initially given as rewards to Kickstarter supporters.

Photograph by Studio Roosegaarde

"In a way clean air is the new beauty," he added.

"It's not about buying another Rolex watch or new car, that's boring old luxury. The new premium is clean air &ndash it's great and it's why this is here. You don't have to buy a ticket, it's for everyone."

The Smog Free Tower has already been installed in Rotterdam, where Roosegaarde tested the project before Beijing

The designer is also working on a number of other innovative projects &ndash which led to him winning an innovation medal during the London Design Festival earlier this month.

DIY Bubble Solution Recipe

This homemade DIY bubble solution recipe uses all-natural ingredients and promises hours of fun for the kids. Be sure to include them when making it too!


  • 24 ounces distilled or filtered water
  • 4 ounces liquid soap (make your own here!)
  • 2 ounces liquid vegetable glycerin
  • natural food color, optional


  1. To begin making the DIY bubble solution add the water to a large container.
  2. Slowly mix in the liquid soap, stirring well.
  3. Once the liquid soap is incorporated, add the liquid vegetable glycerin. Mix this in well too. Make sure it is mixed very well, or the bubbles won’t work.
  4. If desired, add a few drops of natural food coloring.
  5. Store this solution in a large mouth quart mason jar.


You can use a store-bought bubble-blowing wand, or make your own. To do this you’ll need a piece of wire about a foot long. Bend one end into a circle about an inch across. Make sure the ends meet and secure the wire there. On the handle end, fold a length of the wire about 3-4 inches back alongside itself and secure. Bend this section so that it is wavy. This will give you a better grip. To avoid rust, store the wand separate from the DIY bubble solution.

Blowing the Homemade Bubbles

To use your bubble solution, choose a day that’s not too windy. Wind can break even the toughest bubbles easily. Dip the larger end of the bubble wand into the solution. Slowly pull the wand out of the solution, letting it drip just a bit. Blow through the hole. A bubble will form on the other side. Keep blowing! If you do it slowly enough, you could get very large bubbles! You could also make a wand that has many smaller holes to get a lot of tiny bubbles at one time.

DIY Bubble Solution Safety

This bubble solution is safe and nontoxic. If pets or kids should get a hold of the bubbles, and my dog loves to chase them! They won’t cause stomach upset unless it is in large amounts. Also, it’s safe for the environment.

Scenting the Bubble Solution

I’ve had people ask if they can add fun scents to the bubbles. If you use an extract, such as vanilla, in very small amounts, you could scent your bubbles that way. I would avoid using essential or fragrance oils as any oil can inhibit the bubble blowing action.

That being said, you’ll want to make sure your mixing container, spoons, and jar are completely free of any grease. Grease or oil of any kind can stop bubbles from forming.

Have you ever made a DIY bubble solution? Tell us about your experiences!

About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon! Connect with Debra Maslowski on G+.

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DISCLAIMER: Information on DIY Natural™ is not reviewed or endorsed by the FDA and is NOT intended to be substituted for the advice of your health care professional. If you rely solely upon this advice you do so at your own risk. Read full Disclaimer & Disclosure statements here.

Is Organic the Solution for Beijing? - Recipes

Food waste comprises roughly 70 percent of the country's garbage and is difficult to collect, process and recycle - and hazardous not to. Zheng Xin, Wang Kaihao and Cheng Anqi report.

While you often hear Chinese parents tell their kids to not waste food, the fact is food waste accounts for about 70 percent of the country's mounting garbage production. That's compared to less than 20 percent in many developed countries, where sorting and processing have been the norm since the 1980s. And as China's waste processing capabilities simply can't keep pace with the amount of garbage that is being produced, food waste is a bigger problem than it might be. "As people's lives improve, the catering industry is booming and dietary habits are changing, so we're producing massive amounts of food waste," Beijing Technology and Business University's Department of Environmental Science and Engineering professor Ren Lianhai says.

"China has a long way to go in terms of better disposal because it lacks a national policy, scientific management and processing methods."

Beijing was among a slew of local governments to pass regulations in 2011 about trash sorting and food waste disposal, largely because of public concerns about "gutter oil" - cooking oil retrieved from drains and sometimes reused by restaurants.

The problem is that governments, NGOs and enterprises are struggling to cook up solutions for kitchen waste disposal and are finding they don't work or are difficult to implement.

Recipes that are being tried include composting the waste into organic fertilizer using enzymes and earthworms, burning it to create electricity, feeding it to pigs and even using gutter oil as biofuel to power Dutch Airlines' planes.

"Kitchen waste has become a primary pollution source and imposes serious risks to people's health and the environment," Ren says.

Ren, who has studied waste management for more than a decade, explains the dangers of burying kitchen waste in landfills.

China's food waste is 74 percent water - that's three times the saturation of US and European kitchen waste. It's referred to as "wet waste" globally.

The pressure of being buried, combined with the chemical reactions of microbial biodegradation, causes the water to ferment and percolate, forcing hazardous and even carcinogenic sludge to ooze out, Ren explains.

And food waste poses sanitation hazards before it even reaches the landfills, he adds.

Take Beijing, for example. The capital's households produce 11,000 tons of kitchen waste, plus the 2,500 tons that spew out of restaurants, a day. But the municipality's three large-scale processing plants can only handle 800 tons a day of food waste.

The most common methods of kitchen waste disposal are feeding it to pigs and composting.

While the evidence is inconclusive, many experts worry that turning household kitchen waste into pig slop is dangerous.

Pork is China's most popular meat and its presence in hog feed creates the risk of homology. Homology is cannibalism among animals that typically don't eat the meat of their own species in nature and can cause prion infections, such as mad cow disease.

The Ministry of Agriculture has created a panel to study the risks but hasn't reached a consensus.

Although the practice is common in Japan and South Korea, some of China's local governments, such as Fujian province's Xiamen city, have outlawed it.

Organic composting, though promising, also faces challenges.

Many pilot projects have problems, such as people not sorting their trash, or collectors dumping sorted trash together or waiting too long to pick it up, creating a stench.

"Trash processing is a chain," Beijing Municipal Commission of City Administration and Environment garbage disposal official Chen Ling says.

"We can't expect people to sort out kitchen waste if there's no channel to handle it."

Ren says the chain's weak links come from a diffusion of responsibility.

"The dilemma is that experts complain about management, while officials complain about technological deficiencies," he says.

There are also chemical reasons it's difficult to compost in China.

"Chinese food contains too much oil, especially animal tallow, which coats the waste in a thick cover that seals out oxygen microbes need to biodegrade the waste," Ren explains.

One solution is to dilute the food waste with other biodegradable trash, such as paper.

Insufficient storage is another problem. Farming is seasonal, but food waste is produced year-round.

And even if there were more storage facilities, compost rots too quickly to last from harvest until the next planting.

In addition, the saltiness of Chinese food means the fertilizer it becomes can make arable land fallow over time, Ren says.

Still, several projects are running that turn kitchen waste into organic fertilizer around the country.

Many NGOs, such as the Fujian Environmental Protection Volunteer Association, exchange organic vegetables for correctly sorted trash.

The produce is grown with the organic fertilizer from their community's waste, meaning that, theoretically, the melon rind a household throws out can end up back on the family's table as a fresh organic melon.

The association's founder Zheng Dijian believes it's all about incentives.

"If people get something out of sorting their garbage, they will," he says. "If they don't, they won't."

Another kitchen waste use idea being tried out is incineration to create electricity.

Trash in Chaoyang district's Chaoyang Circular Economy Industrial Zone, in Beijing, is compressed to wring out the water, left to dry for five days and then incinerated at the 200-hectare solid waste incineration plant.

About 1,600 tons feed the furnaces a day, creating 220 million kilowatt hours - equivalent to 70,000 tons of coal - annually. About 70 percent of that electricity powers the industrial zone while the rest flows into the North China Power System.

But it's uncertain how - and if - this could work on a nationwide scale.

Ren, who works on a national panel devoted to developing the country's kitchen waste disposal system, says Beijing's government plans to build at least one large wet waste processing plant in every district and county.

The problem is that nobody's sure what sort of plant they should construct.

The same quandary faces the proposed 100-150 plants to be built nationwide before 2016. They should be able to process a total of up to 30 million tons a year.

Watch the video: Wie werden Bio-Produkte kontrolliert? (January 2022).