China Smog Sparks Creative Solutions


From giant vacuum cleaners to artificial rain to mini-filters for the noses of Shanghai police officers, the smog in China has sparked some creative solutions from governments and individuals. These solutions are becoming ever more urgent as the situation of smog in China worsens.

It is widely known that Chinese cities have one of the worst cases of air pollution worldwide. The smog even blocks out the sun to a point, in some cities, where individuals can not see several meters ahead of them. A big concern are airports where planes often struggle to land amidst the smog.

In 2010, it was reported by the British journal The Lancet that bad air caused 1.2 million premature deaths in China. The situation in the country has progressively worsened due to China’s efforts to grow their already booming economy. While other countries have limited cars and factory emissions, many economically successful Chinese industries use their influence to resist stricter environmental rules.

The smog, however, sparks some creative solutions by certain governments and individuals across China. Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde, for example, came up with an idea of a giant electromagnetic vacuum cleaner which could simply suck all the smog particles up. This is achieved through copper coils which are buried underground and can attract particles in the air by an electrostatic field. The artist compared it to a balloon attracting hair. Roosegaarde has a reputation for establishing the “smart highway,” a very creative and interesting project that saves energy on roads. The idea of the vacuum was conceived while the artist was on a trip to Beijing and it has now developed to the planning stage. An agreement was made in Oct. 2013 with the mayor of Beijing to test it in a public park. The artist said with the right funding, it could possibly be ready for the summer of 2014.

Also in Beijing, an inventor and artist, Matt Hope, gained some fame for his bicycle connected to a mask and a system that filters air. The filter is powered by pedaling, providing clean air for the cyclist. However, Hope claims he did not make it as a product; instead, it was a social statement.

“Someone could go out and put an air filter on a bike, it’s really hard not to do,” said Hope to The Beijinger. “I could make another one tomorrow. I did it more to point out our pollution problem, and partly to make fun of myself at the same time for wearing such a big, ridiculous mask.” He went on to add that instead of filtering, the air should simply be made cleaner.

Elsewhere, one solution in Lanzhou, which the World Health Organization reports has the worst air in China, is to dig gullies in encompassing mountains. Some have taken this idea a step further and have talked about removing mountains altogether. However, all these ideas require massive funding and have not gone beyond the talking stage.

To put the situation in China into perspective, researchers said 25 million healthy years of life from China’s population has been lost due to the smog. Creative sparks are flying as individuals and government search for solutions, however, with all the heavy emissions from factories and cars, the situation will remain as dire as ever.

By Kollin Lore


The Guardian
NY Times
The Beijinger
The Washington Post
Shanghai Gov

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