Solid waste im­ports face stricter con­trols in boost to en­vi­ron­ment Range of harm­ful prod­ucts will be banned un­der new green com­pre­hen­sive guide­lines

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - POLICY REVIEW - By ZHANG YUE zhangyue@chi­nadaily.com.cn

China has been among the world top ex­porters and importers for years. But stan­dards re­main high and the coun­try has re­cently come out with a doc­u­ment that an­nounces the ban­ning of cer­tain types of im­ports. “For­eign garbage”, en­vi­ron­men­tally hazardous solid waste, will be en­tirely banned from en­ter­ing China by the end of next year along with stricter man­age­ment on solid waste im­ports.

Im­ports of en­vi­ron­men­tally hazardous solid waste to China, di­vided into 24 main cat­e­gories, will end by the end of 2017, and im­ports of solid waste that can be re­placed by do­mes­tic re­sources will end by 2019, the State Coun­cil, China’s Cab­i­net, an­nounced on July 27.

The banned cat­e­gories in­clude waste pa­per, plas­tics as well as raw tex­tile ma­te­ri­als.

“There has been re­lated reg­u­la­tion and leg­is­la­tion on the ban­ning of solid waste al­ready, but this time the guide­line is a much more com­pre­hen­sive one which will see more reg­u­la­tions,” said Liu Hua, direc­tor of the pol­lu­tion pre­ven­tion pro­gram at Green­peace’s Bei­jing of­fice.

China started to im­port solid waste from 1980, when the coun­try was still run­ning as a planned econ­omy and there was a lack of a va­ri­ety of pro­duc­tive re­sources.

As the coun­try grad­u­ally de­vel­oped its mar­ket econ­omy and ro­bust growth be­came the norm, along with re­form and openingup, China has be­come self-de­pen­dent in many sec­tors of re­sources, and the gov­ern­ment has been im­prov­ing the reg­u­la­tory sys­tem in defin­ing the ex­act types of solid waste that can be im­ported to China due to en­vi­ron­men­tal con­cerns.

Im­ported waste still ex­ists in some ma­jor in­dus­tries, such as pa­per mak­ing. And the main rea­son is due to com­par­a­tively lower prices, Liu said.

Zhou Hongchun, a re­searcher on so­cial devel­op­ment at the Devel­op­ment and Re­search Cen­ter un­der the State Coun­cil, said dur­ing an in­ter­view with China Eco­nomic News that there are still a large num­ber of pri­vate com­pa­nies il­le­gally im­port­ing solid waste.

He said that the im­ported solid waste, in most cases, of­ten min­gles with other waste, and this can pose a se­vere threat to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Pol­icy di­gest

Fig­ures from the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion show that last year the amount of solid waste that China im­ported ac­counted for about 56 per­cent of the to­tal amount of solid waste pro­duced glob­ally.

Most of this waste was from de­vel­oped coun­tries. Sta­tis­tics also show that more than 90 per­cent of solid waste pro­duced around the globe is sold to de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

Ac­cord­ing to the new plan, by the end of 2019, the coun­try will phase out im­ports of solid waste that can be re­placed by do­mes­tic re­sources.

At the same time, in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion on re­turn­ing the garbage will be en­hanced.

“Im­ports of solid waste that can be hazardous are now im­ported into China both legally and il­le­gally, and both chan­nels will more or less harm peo­ple’s health and the en­vi­ron­ment,” Liu, from Green­peace in Bei­jing, said.

“If these wastes are im­ported in le­gal chan­nels that means it will go through a se­ries of pro­cesses when im­ported, and will harm peo­ple’s health dur­ing the process. And if this waste is im­ported il­le­gally, that means it does not even go through the nec­es­sary pro­cess­ing.”

The re­lease of the new guide­line came af­ter China no­ti­fied the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion on July 18 that it will ban im­ports of solid waste, in­clud­ing waste plas­tics, un­sorted scrap pa­per, dis­carded tex­tiles and vana­dium slag by the end of 2017.

Bor­der con­trols on “for­eign garbage” will be in­ten­si­fied, and se­vere pun­ish­ments will be im­posed on the re­selling and il­le­gal pro­cess­ing of im­ported waste.

There is still some il­le­gal smug­gling of “for­eign garbage” into China for profit, es­pe­cially in cer­tain in­dus­tries.

“This is mainly be­cause im­ported waste is still at a lower price com­pared to do­mes­tic raw ma­te­ri­als,” Liu said.

He sug­gested the adop­tion of a more ef­fec­tive ap­proach to im­prove the garbage clas­si­fi­ca­tion sta­tus in China.

Fig­ures from the Min­istry of En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion show that in 2015, a to­tal of 185.6 mil­lion met­ric tons of house­hold garbage was pro­duced from large and medium-sized ci­ties in China.

“Most of this garbage is not well clas­si­fied and was not reused. If garbage clas­si­fi­ca­tion can be im­proved, the amount of waste that can be reused will greatly in­crease,” Liu said.

This is mainly be­cause im­ported waste is still at a lower price com­pared to do­mes­tic raw ma­te­ri­als.” Liu Hua, direc­tor of the pol­lu­tion pre­ven­tion pro­gram at Green­peace’s Bei­jing of­fice

SHI YU / CHINA DAILY

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