'Disposal plan will be big burden'

Updated: 2011-09-23 07:13

By Cao Yin and Li Yao (China Daily)

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BEIJING - A controversial proposal to make large restaurants and college canteens responsible for recycling kitchen waste has raised concern among legislators and industry insiders.

According to a draft plan for dealing with garbage, eateries in the capital larger than 1,000 square meters and with a capacity to seat 1,000 people will be required to handle all disposals.

"The policy aims to reduce pollution caused during the transportation of waste and relieve the pressure on collective processing factories in rural areas," said Bu Shicheng, deputy director of the legislative affairs commission of Beijing Municipal People's Congress, which discussed the draft on Thursday.

He said kitchen waste is also closely related to the issue of "gutter oil", illegally recycled cooking oil, adding that if large restaurants deal with their rubbish well it may solve the problem at the source.

The proposal is perfect for restaurants with waste disposal machines, such as Xiang'eqing, a chain with venues nationwide. Its branch in Haidian district uses the equipment every day to convert 2,000 kilograms of kitchen waste into fertilizer for farms.

"The machines cost 380,000 yuan ($60,000) and occupy 45 square meters. They were paid for with investment from the city government," said the branch manager, who refused to give his name. He agreed the facilities can help reduce pollution and cut off gutter oil at the source.

However, Xiang'eqing is currently the only restaurant in Haidian fitted with such machines.

Liu Weilin, deputy secretary-general of the congress' standing committee, said he feels it is too hasty to ask restaurants to install kitchen waste processors.

"If we are exploring a policy that is untested on a large scale, we have to think twice before making it law," Liu said.

He estimated that about 26,000 restaurants and canteens would meet the size requirements set out in the draft, and warned that the cost to buy the equipment and pay people to run it will be a huge burden.

"The disposal machines used by Xiang'eqing are too huge and expensive for the 4,000 restaurants in Haidian district," said Bai, an official at Beijing Haidian Catering Service Trade Association who did not want to be fully identified. "The article just isn't practical."

Taishuxi, an eatery in Beijing's Chaoyang district, has no disposal facilities. Two tall buckets full of smelly kitchen waste stood in a dark and narrow room packed with other garbage on Thursday afternoon.

Zhang Lan, a junior manager, said a collection company picks up the garbage daily. She had never heard about the idea of installing disposal machines and declined to comment further.

Tian Guikao, 60, who has worked in the University of International Business and Economics' largest canteen for five years, said his job is to transport food waste to a nearby collection center, which is open from 6 am to 4 pm. He usually has to make five or six runs a day.

Education authorities have made it a priority to introduce basic food waste disposal on campus over the next four years, said Li Fengmin, director of canteens at the college.

Gutter oil is often produced from kitchen waste and has become a national concern for police and food safety watchdogs.

The Ministry of Public Security detained 32 people on Sept 13 as part of a nationwide crackdown. More than 100 tons of illegal cooking oil was seized in 14 provinces, including Zhejiang, Shandong and Henan.

China Daily

(China Daily 09/23/2011 page4)