China's Imports of Solid Waste Continue to Decline
China’s imports of solid waste have continued to decline this year with imports of plastic, paper and metal waste amounting to 4.74 million tons, down 33.1 percent from January to April in 2018.
The drop follows a decline of nearly 50 percent in 2018 as the country tightened its ban on solid waste imports.
China has set a target of zero solid waste imports by 2020. China began importing solid waste as a source of raw materials in the 1980s and has been the world’s largest importer. Last year, the government announced a ban on 32 types of solid waste, including plastics and paper, and has imposed tough quality restrictions on other recyclable materials.
In December, China announced it would ban imports of more varieties of scrap steel, copper and aluminum starting from July. The aim is to block imports of all waste products that could be sourced domestically.
Solid waste has been one of China’s biggest environmental challenges. According to Reuters, the country has a solid waste treatment backlog of around 60-70 billion tons, putting it under pressure to boost recycling capacity.
It has also put other nations around the world under pressure to develop better solutions for managing waste, such as expanding processing capacities and encouraging manufacturers to make their products more easily recyclable. Over the coming decade, over 110 million tons of plastic is estimated to require alternative treatment as a result of China’s ban.
Last year, an operation to detect waste importing fraud initiated by China involved 15 international organizations, including the World Customs Organization, the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Criminal Police Organization, the Secretariat of the Basel Convention and 75 solid waste importing and exporting countries and regions.
During the 64-day operation the organization worked together to prevent smuggling and blocked, returned or seized 326,000 metric tons of solid waste, reported 214 illegal cases and issued 37 warnings.