China to ban all imports of solid waste beginning 2021

Customs officers in Zhoushan, east China’s Zhejiang province, seal a container that carry 2,920 kg of banned foreign solid waste, Sept. 16. (Photo by Yao Feng/People’s Daily Online)

China will ban all forms of imports of solid waste starting from Jan. 1, 2021, said Chinese authorities.


The dumping, stacking and disposal of waste products from overseas on Chinese territory will also be banned, according to a notice issued by the Ministry of Ecology and Environment (MEE), the Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM), the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC), and the General Administration of Customs (GAC).


Those who violate relevant regulations and import foreign solid waste into China will be ordered by the customs to return the waste and face fines in accordance with the Law on Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste and other laws. Those who are convicted of a crime will also be held criminally liable.


Waste carriers will be jointly and severally liable with the importers for the return and disposal of solid waste.


The import licenses for restricted solid waste that can be used as raw materials approved and issued by the MEE remain valid only before 2021.


The newly revised Law on Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste, which took effect on Sept. 1, specifies the identification of suspected foreign solid waste as well as the return and disposal of illegally imported solid waste, and has substantially enhanced penalties for violations, said Liu Youbin, a spokesperson of the MEE.


As China starts banning all solid waste imports the next year, the MEE will no longer accept and approve applications related to the import of solid waste, Liu added.


Solid waste refers to solid or semi-solid materials produced in the course of production, daily life and other activities that have lost their original use value or have not lost their use value but have been abandoned or discarded.


Solid waste were smuggled from overseas into China at first, so it’s called “foreign garbage.” It mainly includes waste plastics, paper, rubber products, as well as waste from rare metal smelting, slag and other types.


China’s economy has flourished since the 1980s, and many industries including manufacturing have generated huge demands for raw materials. Due to the shortage of domestic resources, China started to import solid waste that could be used as raw materials.


For a certain period of time, imported solid waste replaced primary resources and facilitated the supply of secondary resources. It to some extent drove the country’s economic growth.


As China’s economy expands rapidly, the country has seen continuously growing volume of solid waste imports, which once peaked at nearly 60 million tonnes.


The pollution caused by the decomposition, treatment, and piling of such a large amount of solid waste has directly threatened the safety of the atmosphere, water, and soil, increasingly exerting negative impacts on the ecological environment and damaging people’s health.


Prohibiting the entry of foreign waste not only suits the need to improve the quality of the environment and maintain the safety of China’s ecological environment, but also is a necessary move to stimulate high-quality development.


In 2017, the General Office of the State Council in China launched a plan for banning foreign waste imports and advancing the reform of solid waste management system. Since then, China has started to significantly cut the types and total amount of solid waste imports.


In 2018 and 2019, China’s total solid waste imports witnessed an average annual decline of more than 40 percent.


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