Coal may not be China’s only environmental problem

Everybody has read in the news recently about how the air pollution levels were so high that an almost opaque fog descended on the city for over a week. While a large portion of this is due to massive number of cars used in a small area and coal being burned as a source of energy, I learned from one of students there are probably many more reasons. During a class I teach every week, the 15 year old girl and I got on the topic of recycling. I was teaching her the word cycle and used recycle as an example. To emphasize it, I held up my water bottle. And then she told me something that even a week later I’m so shocked by that I feel the need to write about it. She said “my family burns those, we don’t want them to end up on the ground or in the ocean if we throw them away.” I was pretty dumbfounded and sputtered “really?!” She explained to me that hers and the other families in their neighborhood burn all their plastic garbage, that way it can’t become litter. She smiled proudly and said they are good people who save the Earth. When I told her breathing in plastic fumes can seriously hurt her, she gave me a understanding look and said “sometimes I get head aches when we take care of the garbage.” She wasn’t very responsive after that, so I switched the topic and continued teaching. But I now think China’s coal consumption may not be its only hurtle towards becoming environmentally friendly.

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