“The Campaign 2018 on combating environment-related illegal act regarding solid waste” is initiated until the end of June, helping to address the solid and hazardous waste because the solid waste pollution remains severe and hazardous waste is in dire need of treatment in China. At the 2018 Innovation and Development Conference of Environmental Protection Industries held on June 7th, executive vice president, the secretary of board of GreenNovo, Li Bo, told reporters from Xinhua News that it was possible to turn heavy metals extracted from solid and hazard waste into resources. He called for improving the technology of recycling heavy-metal-containing solid and hazardous wastes. 

Here are the reporter’s questions and Li Bo’s answers:

Topic: Commercializing solid and hazardous waste treatment still lags behind

Xinhua News: What is the status of solid and hazardous waste treatment?

Li Bo: Solid waste has received more and more attention in recent years. In fact, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment has attached great importance to solid waste already, which will help to tackle the severe pollution caused by solid waste. The past few years have witnessed the treatment of solid and hazardous wastes produced in industrial areas, and are much improved already.

Xinhua News: How should the solid and hazardous waste industry be developed from your perspective?

Li Bo: I think it is not appropriate to call it one industry. It includes more than one industry. For instance, it is hard to count how many kinds of garbage we have in our daily life, which is the same with industries garbage. Of every industry, the companies may produce over 100 wastes, and we need to pick the most serious ones to address first, like heavy metal pollution, especially from steel, non-ferrous metal smelting and mining. Most of them can only be stockpiled because we have not come up with a way to commercialize it yet, so the treatment costs are so hard to be covered.

That is why we have launched our “Contract Environment Service” project. By investing with steel mills, we set up a treatment system in the steel mill and smeltery to separate the heavy metal and iron in dust and slag. You can take the valuable iron back to increase the recovery rate, and I will get the heavy metal, a win-win result. Steel mills solve the environmental problem without paying more money. GreenNovo always tries be innovative in both technology and business models by establishing a partnership with waste-generating companies.

Topic: Led by market, supported by government

Xinhua News: What obstacles or difficulties could we face in turning waste treatment into business?

Li Bo: First, “Campaign 2018” provides a great policy opportunity for all of us. I think the government should raise the threshold for the industry, set up some regional base to recycle the heavy-metal-containing solid waste, revamp the poorly managed and small enterprises, prevent environmental protection enterprises from underperforming, and encourage environmental service companies to fast track progress the kinds of services provided between companies. Meanwhile, we should also let market play its role in allocating resources actively.

Second, we are also confronted with some issues when carrying out the policy on tax refund for the comprehensive utilization of resources, for example, in terms of the definition of “steel dust”. Part of the solid waste we process is the dust coming out from the blast furnace. It is called “blast furnace dust” in the steel industry and is written on all the invoices we are given. Therefore we can’t enjoy the tax refund policy just because authorities couldn’t prove it is the same as “steel dust”. This is another problem.

Third, now the government is making the requirement standards of slag and dust from steel mills and smelters. I think it should be a high standard. For example, the blast furnace dust should be monitored as hazardous waste instead of general solid waste based on how much heavy metals it contains.

Xinhua News: There are two problems in solid waste industries. One is large stockpiling, the other is too many various kinds. What do you think is the solution?

Li Bo: This is not only China’s problem, but a worldwide issue. I think it is hard to solve in a short period of time. Solid waste is easier to be recycled compared with water and air. If we want to treat it without pollution or reduce pollution, recycling is the only way to achieve the target, which is mainly about capturing and selling the recycled products.

Topic: Building the “Contract Environment Service”

Xinhua News: How far does China go in recycling? Is the method you just mentioned widely spread already?

Li Bo: Far from it. Only a few solid wastes recycled is regulated, some are far from regulated. That is the reason why we need to tap into new business models, combined with technology upgrading, while raising the bar for the industry.

Xinhua News: The environmental protection industry can’t develop without advanced technology. Could you tell us about the technological development in China’s solid waste industry and what is the leading edge of GreenNovo’s core technology?

Li Bo: Founded 18 years ago, GreenNovo has focused on recycling heavy-metal solid and hazardous waste and established leadership in this area at home and abroad. Our independently developed core technology“Pyrometallurgical Enrichment and Hydrometallurgical Separation Integrated with Multi-segment Coupling” is able to extract valuable elements like zinc, indium, lead, cadmium, bismuth, tin and iodine from steel dust, smelting slags and other heavy metal wastes, and made a breakthrough of a world-class challenge, which is to dechlorinate and remove impurities from heavy metal wastes by advanced and improving industrial technology.

The iodine we extracted from steel dust makes up 15% of iodine capacity nationwide. We also intensively process the iron while extracting rubidium and cesium to produce secondary reduced iron powder for powder metallurgy and 3D printing. The whole workflow maintains environmentally friendly and stable production.

In terms of technology, working together with the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Science and Technology Beijing, along with and other institutions of scientific research, we have grown to be more adaptable to process multiple solid and hazardous wastes and more capable in rare and precious metal extraction. Our mission in the future is to achieve zero landfill of solid waste from steel factories and smelters, which means solid wastes can be fully recycled and extracted. That is our way to implement the philosophy “lucid waters and lush mountains are invaluable assets.”