Video: Trash Talking, Literally, with China's Determined Documentarian Wang Jiuliang
Wang Jiuliang is obsessed with trash — as a documentary filmmaker and photographer, Wang has spent four years between 2008 and 2011 exploring and documenting the over 460 hazardous landfills around Beijing. His efforts lead to the award-winning film Beijing Besieged by Waste and the public uproar it provoked lead to the Beijing municipal government allocating 10 billion RMB (U.S. $1.65 billion) to regulate the waste disposal industry. After a revisit, Wang estimates that around 80 percent of the landfills he's been to have either been shut down or upgraded.
Speaking with ChinaFile Culture Editor Sun Yunfan last year, fellow filmmaker and environmental activist Shi Lihong praised Wang for "single-handedly accomplished what many NGOs in China had worked hard for decades — raising public awareness and bringing about policy change."
In the video below, Wang walks us through his journey to document the wastelands in China, and how his childhood played a part in sparking his curiosity for this particular subject
However, there's still work to be done. Quartz reported in February of this year that China is the world's biggest importer of trash, including plastic, paper, and electronic waste. When it comes to e-waste, an estimated 8 million tonnes (data from a United Nations comprehensive report) of e-waste is smuggled into China via Hong Kong and neighboring Vietnam. The incentive goes both ways: companies want to avoid taxes as well as environmental mandates, while the scrap products can be re-used to make inexpensive second-hand goods.
Wang continues his "trash walk" with his upcoming film Plastic China, which focuses on China's plastic waste, looking at human and environmental costs every step of the way, from recycling to importing. The film is still a work-in-progress, but on Wednesday, August 20, viewers in New York City can enjoy excerpts from it and participate in a Q&A discussion at Asia Society's panel for Plastic China, as part of the series Waking the Green Tiger: Documentaries from the Front Lines of China's Environmental Crisis.