China set to curb foreign waste imports

Updated: 2007-01-24 20:27

BEIJING -- The Chinese government is closely watching the progress of investigation into the dumping of garbage in south China by Britain and is preparing to crackdown on illegal imports, said an official Wednesday.

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Recent media reports on British garbage shipped to Guangdong Province has drawn the attention of the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA), the unnamed SEPA official said.

The administration had ordered Guangdong environmental authorities to launch an immediate investigation and sent an inspection team to Lianjiao Village in Foshan City.

The move followed an investigative report on Britain's Sky News TV titled "Are you poisoning China?", revealing how British plastic waste ended up in Lianjiao.

The Chinese media has reported that China exports 16 billion pounds of goods to the United Kingdom every year and receives 1.9 million tons of rubbish in return.

Located at an industrial zone in Foshan's Nanhai District, Lianjiao has become a processing center of plastic waste since the 1970s.

Investigations found that Lianjiao receives up to 200,000 tons of plastic waste every year, 80 percent of which was collected from domestic sources and the rest was suspected to be imported from overseas.

"No official approval for importing garbage has been granted to any company in this zone," the official said.

Domestic media exposed illegal rubbish imports to Lianjiao in September 2006. The Guangdong provincial government then urged the Foshan government and the provincial environmental protection department to investigate.

The local government has banned unlicensed businesses and individuals from importing plastic waste, and suspended operations at plastic waste processing factories that are not equipped with environmental protection facilities. Companies that incinerate trash or occupy public venues to store the waste were punished.

The government attaches great importance to the management of imported wastes, and strictly abides by the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundry Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal which took effect in May 1992, the SEPA official said.

Chinese law on the control of solid wastes explicitly bans imports of solid wastes that cannot be used as raw materials or be recycled by harmless means. Imports of waste that can be used as raw materials are limited and categorized by registration.

"However, driven by profits, some dealers smuggle or associate with overseas organizations and illegally bring foreign garbage to China, endangering public health and the environment," said the official.

The SEPA had been negotiating with European Union agencies on the prevention and crackdown of illegal transboundry movements of waste.

It will also work with other government departments to improve regulations and standards regarding waste imports, enhance supervision in processing waste and fight waste smuggling, said the official.

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