Consumers are turning their noses up at man-made coal produced from household garbage and human excrement, a product that was meant to cut fuel costs in the city by around 30 percent.
The government has given the private company that created the "coal" 700,000 yuan (US$92,498) to bring the product to market, but the market has clearly said no thanks.
Guo Xiang, the founder of Shanghai Guoxiang Science and Technology Co Ltd, started the man-made coal research in response to the thousands of tons of household garbage and sewage that don't get properly treated in the city.
"The city generates a huge quantity of garbage every day, but figuring out how to treat it properly has become a big headache for the city government," said Guo, who uncovered the problem during a routine visit with the city government's top advisory body in 2005.
Household trash is either buried or incinerated in the suburbs areas, causing environmental problems, said Guo.
The graduate of Fudan University's bio-genetics program realized he could recycle the waste to make fuel as both garbage and sewage contain large amounts of heat when they are dehydrated.
"The experiment results immediately enlightened me," Guo said. "It seems that awful garbage piles suddenly become precious black gold mines in my eyes."
One man's black gold is another's steaming pile of waste, however.
While the company has been able to produce 20 tons of its man-made coal a day at a cost of less than 100 yuan a ton, no one is buying.
Guo said his own company has used most of the coal produced so far as almost all of the potential consumers he has contacted are skeptical of the raw materials.
"People are worried about whether it will create an unpleasant smell, and they lack confidence about whether the man-made product can really burns as efficiently as real coal," he explained.
Editor: canton my