SEPA, EU to combat illegal garbage imports

By Sun Xiaohua (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-01-25 06:52

Officials at China's top environmental watchdog said they would coordinate with their counterparts in the European Union and customs officials to crack down on waste smuggling into China.

"China strictly bans any imports of waste that cannot be recycled as raw materials or be treated harmlessly in the country," a source at the State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA) said yesterday in Beijing.

The comments came in response to a recent program on Britain's Sky News TV entitled "Are you poisoning China?" The program reported that plastic waste from the UK was ending up in Lianjiao, a remote village in Foshan, in South China's Guangdong Province.

Lianjiao was unknown to the world until the international media spotlight fell on one of its key cottage industries importing garbage from Britain.

Starting in the 1970s, the village has developed into a center for collection and distribution of waste plastic. Every year it handles more than 200,000 tons of plastic, some of it imported illegally, SEPA's figures show.

Some banned types of plastic waste have been found in Lianjiao village, according to the results of an investigation by the environmental authority.

No company in Lianjiao village has official approval to import waste from other countries, SEPA said.

The local government has banned unlicensed enterprises and individuals from engaging in the plastic waste business, suspended the operations of plastic waste processing factories that are not equipped with environmental protection facilities and clamped down on enterprises that incinerate trash or illegally occupy public venues for waste storage.

"But driven by immediate interests, some local people still try to introduce polluting material into China, posing a threat to the environment and to public health," the source from SEPA said.

SEPA officials have called on other countries to abide by the Basel Convention, an agreement aimed at controlling the illegal transmission of hazardous materials between countries.

Officials from SEPA said they would work with other departments to improve legislation on waste smuggling and to strengthen the management of imports and reuse of waste.

In another development, SEPA has fined the China National Petroleum Corporation's (CNPC) Jilin Petrochemical Company 1 million yuan ($128,700) for a spill that heavily polluted the Songhua River in 2005.

Approximately 100 tons of pollutants containing hazardous benzene spilled into the river after the No. 101 Chemical Plant under the CNPC Jilin Petrochemical Company, based in Jilin City, exploded in Northeast China's Jilin Province on November 13, 2005.

The incident forced cities along the river, including Harbin, a city of more than 3 million people, to temporarily suspend water supplies to its residents and led to the resignation of former SEPA Minister Xie Zhenhua.

(China Daily 01/25/2007 page3)

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