Right to curb waste im­ports

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - COMMENT - — BEI­JING YOUTH DAILY

China no­ti­fied the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion on Tues­day that it will stop ac­cept­ing im­ports of 24 types of solid waste at the end of the year as part of its ef­forts to tackle en­vi­ron­men­tal pol­lu­tion and pro­tect peo­ple’s health. In re­sponse to grow­ing pub­lic con­cerns over the po­ten­tial en­vi­ron­men­tal and health haz­ards posed by the in­creas­ing amounts of solid waste im­ported into the coun­try for re­cy­cling and treat­ment, China en­acted a spe­cial law in 1995 to reg­u­late im­ports of waste ma­te­ri­als, such as plas­tics, slag from steel­mak­ing, un­sorted scrap pa­per and dis­carded tex­tile ma­te­ri­als.

A year later, the coun­try pub­lished a cat­a­log for solid waste im­ports and be­gan im­ple­ment­ing a per­mit sys­tem to con­trol the im­port vol­umes and types of waste im­ported.

How­ever, due to the lack of ef­fec­tive su­per­vi­sion and the fail­ure of rel­e­vant depart­ments to ful­fill their du­ties, solid waste im­ports have not been ef­fec­tively con­trolled.

So far, China is the world’s largest im­porter of solid waste. Ac­cord­ing to the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion, China im­ported 7.3 mil­lion met­ric tons of plas­tic waste worth $3.7 bil­lion in 2016, ac­count­ing for 56 per­cent of global im­ports of solid waste.

Le­git­i­mate re­cy­cling of solid waste ma­te­ri­als is an im­por­tant part of the global econ­omy, and mod­er­ate im­ports of scrap plas­tic, scrap pa­per and scrap rub­ber prod­ucts, such as ve­hi­cle tires, can, to some ex­tent, make up for China’s short­age of var­i­ous raw ma­te­ri­als.

How­ever, the lack of su­per­vi­sion has con­trib­uted to the coun­try’s se­vere soil and en­vi­ron­men­tal degra­da­tion.

Given that China’s con­tin­u­ing ef­forts to push for in­dus­trial trans­for­ma­tion and up­grad­ing have re­sulted in a no­tice­able de­cline in the de­mand for the ma­te­ri­als re­cy­cled from solid waste im­ports, it is right for the coun­try to re­strict such im­ports for the sake of the en­vi­ron­ment and pub­lic health, and to bet­ter adapt to the changed do­mes­tic in­dus­trial struc­ture.

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