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Progress made on ban of solid waste imports

Environment

China is heading toward its goal of banning all imported solid waste by the end of this year while promoting a zero waste cities program that aims to reduce domestic solid waste, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said.

China DailyUpdated: December 2, 2020

China is heading toward its goal of banning all imported solid waste by the end of this year while promoting a zero waste cities program that aims to reduce domestic solid waste, the Ministry of Ecology and Environment said.

Since the country began to phase out waste imports in 2017, the volume of imported waste has fallen by 68 percent, from 42 million to 13 million metric tons last year, the ministry said.

From January to Nov 15, the volume was 7.2 million tons, it added.

Qiu Qiwen, head of the ministry's department of solid waste and chemicals, said at a news conference on Monday that he is confident that the country can achieve zero solid waste imports.

He said that the ministry and other State organs have finished all the major tasks in the action plan on banning imported solid waste issued by the State Council in 2017, including assigning 20 institutions to identify and sort solid waste in imported goods and to raise penalties on smuggling.

Some tasks in the action plan remain to be completed by the end of this year.

For example, local governments will need to properly arrange jobs for employees working in industries related to imported solid waste.

Qiu said that as the ban is expanded to all kinds of imported solid waste, the country needs to recycle and make better use of domestic solid waste to tackle the resource shortage.

According to the action plan, the volume of recycled domestic solid waste is expected to increase by 100 million tons in 2015 to 350 million tons in 2020.

"The key is to overhaul and reorganize small companies and eliminate those unqualified ones," Qiu said.

In January 2019, China issued a guideline about creating zero solid waste programs, with a trial in dozens of cities.

The pilot program is aimed at reducing the production of solid waste and minimizing landfill levels in these areas.

So far, central and local governments have invested 120 billion yuan ($18.2 billion) in 11 cities and five districts across China, including Shenzhen in Guangdong province, Tongling in Anhui province, Weihai in Shandong province, Panjin in Liaoning province and Xuchang in Henan province.

Pilot projects in these cities were designed to see zero solid waste produced by the mining industry, agriculture, tourism, education and households, the ministry said.

"Although local governments have set some good examples for other cities to learn from, departments need to make more efforts to improve cooperation to put policies in place.

"China has a weak management system for solid waste. It remains tough work, and it will take a long time to tackle this complicated issue," he said.