Customs officers check smuggled waste cotton in Qingdao, Shandong province, on June 11.[Photo by Zhang Jingang/China Daily]
Solid waste imported into China decreased by 57 percent year-on-year in the first quarter of this year, and the country will work to reduce that dramatically, Li Ganjie, minister of ecology and environment, told the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress on June 19.
The importation of restricted garbage dropped by 64 percent in the same period, he said.
“The policy adjustment has yielded obvious results,” Li said.
He also disclosed that the General Administration of Customs had launched investigations into 139 cases related to solid waste smuggling, involving 254,000 metric tons of rubbish in the first three months.
Last year, the administration found 59,000 tons of substandard imported solid waste, Li said. More than 14 times that amount－866,800 tons of waste－was discovered in 286 smuggling cases, he added.
In the next step, China “will strengthen the examination of applications to import restricted waste and work hard to dramatically bring down the importation of solid waste”, Li said.
He also said that during a planned three-year campaign that began this year, China will maintain a tough stance on environmental violations by companies that process imported solid waste.
Under a reform plan released in July by the State Council, the country will phase out imports of solid waste that can be replaced by domestic resources by the end of 2019.
As of the end of 2017, China had banned the importation of 24 types of solid waste and will have banned another 32 types by the end of 2019.
In addition to the ban, the ministry has also taken steps to reduce pollution by companies that process imported waste.
In July last year, the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which has been incorporated into the Ministry of Ecology and Environment, mobilized 1,700 law enforcement officers for a one-month campaign targeting imported waste processing enterprises. Inspectors visited 1,792 companies, 1,072 of which were punished for environmental violations.
Li said China has increased the number of institutes capable of identifying solid waste from three to 20 to help find violators. Three guidelines and norms on the identification of hazardous solid waste have been published.
Mao Da, a solid waste expert from the China Zero Waste Alliance, an NGO, said the identification of solid waste－especially hazardous types whose sources cannot be traced－is important because disposal measures vary. Improper disposal may result in pollution that should have been avoided.
China began importing solid waste as a source of raw materials in the 1980s, and has for years been the world’s largest importer of recyclable materials. Solid waste often contains hazardous elements.