In another "four to five years" all of Beijing's 13 landfill plants will be full, leading to a "garbage crisis", the city's municipal administration commission warned Wednesday.
"We are working on laws and penalties to cut down garbage production in the capital and have sped up construction of new sanitary landfill sites," said Guo Weidong, the publicity division head of the commission.
Beijing currently generates 18,000 tons of trash every day and the designed capacity of all garbage disposal plants is 11,000 tons, Guo said, adding all the plants were already overloaded.
The volume of the city's trash is growing by 8 percent annually and the total amount of garbage produced will reach nearly 12 million tons by 2015, figures show. So far, two of the 13 plants have already met their maximum capacity and will soon stop operations.
Nie Yongfeng, a professor from Tsinghua University's College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering said developed countries deal with the problem by "waste incineration", which is the only solution to the problem, but seldom used in Beijing for fear of the pollution it generates.
"If waste incineration is not applied immediately, garbage disposal will become a huge problem in the near future," Nie said.
On March 11, the national environment agency called off the construction of a controversial waste-fuel power plant in the capital because nearby residents were worried it would pollute water aquifers.
Other large cities such as Shanghai and Chongqing are also facing similar challenges with regard to waste disposal.
On April 11, hundreds of Shanghai residents marched to protest the expansion of the Jiangqiao garbage incineration plant.
The city's Changshengqiao sanitary landfill plant is expected to be full in 15 years, about two years ahead of schedule, officials said.
The amount of garbage Shanghai generated in 2007 was five times the size of the Jinmao Tower, the third tallest building in the world and the tallest in China, the Northern Weekly reported in April.
On Nov 12, garbage disposal facilities in Jiaxing, Zhejing province, were given a thorough overhaul in response to complaints from the public.
The country's annual urban waste per capita is currently 220 kg, with 8 billion tons of trash already piled on disposal sites or in landfills in 600 cities, the Southern Weekend reported.
As part of efforts to battle the emerging crisis, public and private sectors are pushing for more ways to reduce waste output.
Xie Zhenhua, deputy director of the National Development and Reform Commission, said the ban on free distribution of plastic bags imposed last June has reduced polythene waste by at least 65 percent.
Wang Xiaojun, director of the environmental group Greenpeace China, said: "We must reduce, reuse and recycle if we're serious about minimizing pollution."