China will block range of polluting materials, get tough on smuggling
China's environmental watchdog confirmed on Thursday that it has notified the World Trade Organization about a ban on the importation of 24 types of solid waste, which will take effect at the end of this year. It also said it will get tough on waste smuggling.
By the end of 2017, China will forbid the importation of certain waste plastics, vanadium slag, unsorted wastepaper and certain textile materials, the Ministry of Environmental Protection said in its WTO filing, which was submitted on Tuesday.
"To protect China's environmental interests and people's health, we urgently need to adjust the imported solid wastes list, and forbid the import of solid wastes that are highly polluting," it said.
Guo Jing, director of international cooperation at the ministry, said at a news conference on Thursday that the ban is part of a campaign to tackle pollution.
"Some solid waste that could be used as raw material was imported to relieve the resource shortage in the country," Guo said. "Many problems from the imported waste, however, have been exposed with China's socioeconomic development. It not only contaminates the environment but also endangers people's health."
He said China will also get tough on the illegal movement of waste into the country.
Some countries transfer solid waste to other countries by various means, and "some even export illegally", he said－though it is against international conventions to export solid waste without the destination country's approval.
"Motivated by profits, some lawbreakers at home and abroad illegally export or smuggle solid waste into China, and some conceal waste among other goods imported into the country. This waste has resulted in many problems. We must crack down on this," Guo said.
He added that China will speed up the recycling of domestic waste because the Chinese public objects to imported waste.
The central government is stepping up the fight against pollution and environmental degradation, as decades of fast growth have saddled the country with air and soil pollution.
In April, a reform plan to improve the management of solid waste imports to protect the environment and public health was adopted by the Central Leading Group for Deepening Overall Reform, a group led by President Xi Jinping.
The Ministry of Environmental Protection launched a monthlong campaign on July 1 targeting pollution caused by the processing of imported waste.
The ministry announced on Thursday that it had inspected 1,162 companies as of Monday, and 751 of them－or 65 percent－were guilty of environmental violations.
It also noted that inspectors had suggested placing all the violations on file for investigation and prosecution.