BEIJING, China — During a visit to his small hometown in Shandong province in 2008, Wang Jiuliang couldn't believe the amount of rubbish piled up everywhere.
"What I saw at that time seemed to have nothing to do with the beautiful city I once grew up in," he said. "I was shocked and couldn't help but think about how to change things."
So, Wang decided to take action.
Between 2008 and 2010, Wang investigated more than 400 landfills around Beijing and took about 10,000 photos, hoping to raise public awareness of the increasingly serious pollution caused by landfills and untreated waste. He even produced a 72 minute documentary called "Beijing Besieged by Waste."
Wang's project has been shortlisted for Ford's 2011 Conservation and Environmental Grants, China programme (CEGC) under the Excellence in Public Awareness Campaigns for Environmental Conservation category.
"I'm glad that this project generated many positive results. The government of Beijing is taking action and promises to invest RMB 10 billion in landfill management in the next five years," said Wang.
His passion for the project was stirred during that visit to his hometown in the summer of 2008 to work on another project regarding superstitious beliefs in Chinese culture.
"I wanted my surroundings to be clean so I could take photos for my project. But when I looked around, rubbish was everywhere," he said.
During the past few years, Wang's works – featuring his collection of photos and documentary – have been displayed around China and garnered him several awards at exhibitions like the Lianzhou Foto 2009. But for him, more work needed to be done in terms of influencing people's consumption behavior.
Michael Yang, electronic engineer from Ford Motor Research & Engineering (Nanjing), went to Beijing this November to investigate Wang's project as part of his assessment for the CEGC awards, and it expanded his own awareness about the problem with waste.
"Before my involvement in the project, my perception of waste was limited to garbage in the street waste bins or household waste that we can easily get rid of. But as I went further with the project, I realized that the stuff we create everyday was growing terribly fast and a great amount of these materials were sent to landfills without being properly treated," Yang said. "Worse still, people even use them to feed livestock."
While in Beijing, Yang spent most of the time with Wang visiting large-scale landfills around the Chinese capital. Because most of the landfills are located on outskirts of the city, most people aren't aware that they exist.
"As you can imagine, flies were everywhere and the stink made me feel like I was suffocating. When I looked around, I saw a flock of sheep wandering in the landfill, eating leftovers. I can't believe that people were farming these animals here and fed them with garbage." said Yang.
"The government should take more action when it comes to waste management, but every citizen living in the city should also reflect on our consumption behaviours. We consume a huge amount of disposable goods but this stuff turns out to be the source of the problem." said Yang, adding that he is now taking recyclable shopping bags with him to reduce the use of plastic bags.
According to Yang, Wang works as a freelance photographer and most of his time is dedicated to this project. He believes that programmes like CEGC can help individuals such as Wang to go further with their projects.
"The whole project cost Wang more than RMB 200,000. Most of the money came from donations and some small-scale foundations. Wang himself has borrowed a large sum of money from families and friends. To fund his next project, he is in great need of help from environmental conservation
programmes like CEGC." said Yang.
|A flock of sheep are farmed in one of the landfills on the outskirts of Beijing.
|Wang turns his lens on children with poor living conditions around the landfill.|