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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Wuhan uses GPS to address food waste pollution

As reported by The Chinese city of Wuhan (武汉) [referred to as the Chicago of China] is equipping waste collection trucks and trash cans with a digital weighing and GPS device to combat the problem of "gutter oil", or illegally recycled cooking oil.

The initiative will begin operations from December when legislation mandating the integrated collection and processing of kitchen waste kicks in, according to a China Daily report Monday. The new regulation defines edible oil waste as a combination of water and oil collected from kitchen ventilators, oil water separators or sewage facilities.

The integrated system will monitor all waste in the Hubei (湖北) capital [meaning 'north of the lake'], including food leftovers, scrap materials, and edible oil waste from food and beverage outlets, canteens, and factories dealing with food processing and production. It must be implemented in all restaurants bigger than 80 square meters.

Companies will be set up in each district to manage the collection and transport, Chen Jian, director of construction for the Wuhan Urban Management Bureau, said in the report. He added that anyone or organization found in violation of the regulation will be subject to fines.

The China Daily report noted that 621 vehicles, of which 195 will be used for edible oil waste, and 25,800 garbage cans--which all food facilities are required to use--will be equipped with the GPS and weighing system.

Chen explained that to ensure no food waste is collected to make gutter oil, the system which records GPS as well as weight data will be installed on the collection trucks, garbage cans, and oil cans of oil-water separators. "We can clearly know what the vehicles are doing, how much food waste is loaded or uploaded, and can track the vehicles with a click of a mouse in the office," he added.

The devices will measure the weight of the food waste and the data kept for at least two years, as required by the new regulation, by the producer, waste collector, and transporter and processor of the food waste.

"If the weight of the food waste collected from a restaurant decreases sharply, we will investigate where the food waste goes," Chen said, adding that the new initiative is forecast to handle 60 percent of the city's food waste by end-2015.

The daily kitchen waste output in Wuhan is 1,100 tons, 55 percent that of the country's capital Beijing. The Hubei capital plans to build five waste treatment facilities, with capacity to process 200 metric tonnes of food waste each day. These plants will also produce methane and compost from the food residue.

The integrated collection and processing will also reduce pollution from the food waste to the abundant water resources, said Yu Xiao, vice-president of Wuhan Environment Sanitation Science Research Institute.

Wuhan has a 3,500-year-long history, and is one of the most ancient and civilized Metropolitan cities in China; more ancient even than Beijing.  "The famous cooking culture in Wuhan results in a large amount of food waste, which puts the large number of lakes and rivers in the city under pollution risk, as food waste usually will be deserted after the oil is extracted before the integrated collection and processing," he said.