Restaurant kitchen scraps and cafeteria leftovers are usually things people would happily avoid.
However, Jiang Nenghui, a junior at Hunan University of Commerce Beijin College in Changsha, Hubei Province has spent one year sifting through scraps in the city as part of research for planning a kitchen waste recycling company. His proposal not only won first prize at the 4th Hunan College Student Business Competition last April, but also attracted the attention of investors in May.
In 2008, when Jiang was a sophomore, he found his university dining halls produced an enormous amount of waste daily.
As a logistics major interested in environmentally friendly solutions, Jiang began to wonder how much of this total waste is produced in Changsha everyday and how it is dealt with.
In order to find the answer, Jiang recruited five volunteers from his university in August 2008 to help him investigate.
They six then began their research in March 2009 at hotels, restaurants and dining halls of the universities in Changsha, and interviewed local sanitation professionals.
After half a month's research, they found that more than 600 metric tons of kitchen waste is produced everyday in Changsha, only 10 percent of which is recycled. About 70 percent is used for pig feed while 20 percent is suspected in making illegal cooking oil.
"If kitchen waste is used for feed or making oil, it is especially harmful as it most likely contains toxic substances which might cause cancer," Jiang said.
After reading articles about waste management in China and consulting professionals, Jiang learned that the local governments solved the problem by contracting out kitchen waste collection to private sanitation companies.
Jiang also learned that some companies had developed technologies to recycle the waste into fuel or fertilizer.
"Only after being recycled will the waste not harm the environment or humans, and can create economic benefit," Jiang said.
But collecting the kitchen waste posed its own problems.
The government was unable to collect much of it because some farms and cooking oil manufacturers had offered higher prices to collect the waste than the government contracted recycling companies did, he said.
"Feeding livestock with swill can save farmers 100 yuan ($15), while selling waste to cooking oil makers can earn restaurants or hotel owners as much as 10,000 yuan a month," Jiang explained. "Much more profitable than dealing with recycling companies."
Based on this information, Jiang proposed to set up a recycling company that offers a more competitive price.
The company would then recycle the waste into high protein feed, bioorganic fertilizer, commercial grease and clean marsh gas.
This in turn would be sold to farmers, planters and factories at about 5-8 percent below the market price.
"We estimate such a company in Changsha can make 800,000 yuan profit a year," he said.
Jiang's idea was recommended to represent his university and take part in the Hunan College Student Business Competition on April 23.
Upon learning he had won the first prize two days later, Jiang said he felt so happy because it added honor to his university. But what made him happier was that a month ago, a local environmental protection company that had learned about Jiang and his project through media coverage contacted him and expressed interest in cooperating with Jiang.
"If this can actually be set up, my year's effort would be really worth it," Jiang said.
He Dongping, a professor at Wuhan Polytechnic University in Hubei Province, who gained notoriety this May after exposing the illegal cooking oil problem in China, explained that the feasibility of Jiang's proposal depends largely on the government.
"Such a company has to invest at least 50 million yuan minimum in startup capital for equipment and staff," He said.
"Recycling technology, which is usually controlled by State research organizations, is key. Anything other than the most advanced technology would very easily lead to secondary pollution while recycling," he said.
"Without government funding and technical support, I don't think there are many private companies that have enough capital and technological resources to start such a business easily."
However, He expressed his respect and admiration for these students.
"They are young people with the sense of social responsibility. It is worth encouraging their idea," He said.
"Even if their proposal is not realized in the end, what they have done can arouse both people and governments' attention to this waste management problem," he
The annual college entrance examinations period has just ended and as examinees begin to relax, their thoughts turn to summer vacation. Travel is the first choice for many of them.
Each year after the exams the travel market experiences a boost in business, and most hitting the road are students.
Zhang Feng, the manager of a travel agency said, "Students need to relieve some of the pressure after taking their examinations. Most of them will choose to travel."
In Shanghai, the 2010 World Expo is proving to be a big attraction.
Students winding down after exams will find relaxation in exploring the sights of the massive expo site.
A student planning an expo visit said, "I will go with my classmates first, and go there with my family later. Once is not enough."
Travel agencies have created several special tours especially designed for students.
Since most are looking to let off some steam, some are expected to choose some rather risky excursions.
Travel agencies say they will provide the necessary guides and protection, while students are advised to choose safe places to visit instead of remote areas, which may not offer them a lot of security.
Measures to rein in China's soaring home prices are beginning to see results, and price declines are expected in later half of the year, say economists and market watchers.
The recent fall in trading volume and slower growth in prices was largely a result of the measures the government had rolled out since April, said Professor Chen Guoqiang, of China's Peking University.
Home prices in 70 large and medium-sized cities rose by 12.4 percent year-on-year in May, 0.4 percentage points lower than the rise in April, according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
According to Beijing Municipal Bureau of Statistics (BMBS), only 3,028 second-hand homes were sold through 15 major estate agencies in the city in May, down 64.8 percent year-on-year and 70.7 percent month-on-month.
Meanwhile, average prices for second-hand homes stood at 12,661 yuan per square meter, down 2,577 yuan from April, said a report on the BMBS website.
"I can say the rising trend in China's home prices has been curbed initially," said Chen.
A report from Centaline China Property Research revealed second-hand home prices in other major cities also fell. In Shanghai prices dropped by 2.5 percent last month from April and in Guangzhou by 1.5 percent.
The second-hand home market was more sensitive to policy shifts as developers were still cash-rich due to last year's boom, and had little incentive to cut new home prices, said Centaline research manager Qu Anxin.
In a bid to curb soaring prices and prevent an asset bubble, the government tightened scrutiny of developers' financing, curbed loans for third-home purchase, raised minimum mortgage rates and tightened downpayment requirements for second-home purchases.
"People are not expecting these measures to do immediate wonders on the market..., but if policy support continues, a price decline can be expected," said UBS Securities economist Wang Tao.
The downturn would put no short-term pressure on construction, as the government was focusing more on building affordable homes, which would offset a decline in construction of commercial housing, said Wang.
"Construction activities will eventually be influenced by the cooling measures and slow down six months later, while market demand for construction materials will fall at the same time," she said.
Prices have risen year on year for 12 consecutive months since June last year.
Li Wei, a Shanghai-based economist with Standard Chartered Bank, said if low transaction volumes persisted for another three to four months, developers would face liquidity pressures.
"We expect prices nationwide to start falling in the third quarter, with first and second-tier cities experiencing average declines up to 20 percent," he said in a note.
Yang Hongxu, an analyst from Shanghai-based E-House China Research Development Institute, expected prices to fall month on month nationwide in June.
For the whole year, a property market downturn would also lead to slower growth of property investment, which was an important driver of the country's economic growth, said Chen Xingdong, a Beijing-based economist with BNP Paribas.
The annual growth in property investment this year would fall by 10 percentage points, Chen said.
Property market investment grew 38.2 percent to 1.39 trillion yuan in the first five months, according to NBS data.
"This could drag down the country's annual economic growth by 0.5 to 1 percentage point, but the GDP growth for the whole year would still stay above the government target of 8 percent," he said.