XIANGYANG, China – This factory located in a quiet island of central China’s Xiangyang city probably won’t grab your attention. Its stainless steel complex and three-story office building look similar to any other. But don’t be fooled by appearances. The plant here holds a secret that has lured more than 100 Chinese mayors to pay their respects and uncover how they can replicate its success.
On any given day, the factory eats up several hundred tons of human excreta and other waste – a smelly, hazardous slurry called sludge – and spits out enough clean energy to fuel 400 cars. In a country struggling with pollution from massive quantities of untreated sludge and seeking new sources of clean energy, policymakers want to get more sludge-to-energy projects up and running soon.
Already, about 400 miles east of the factory, Hefei is putting together its first experiment converting municipal sludge into energy. Beijing has also rolled out a plan to tap into the energy potential of sludge, along with other cities such as Chengdu, Changsha, and Chongqing.