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China: National Plan on Banning “Foreign Garbage” and Reducing Solid Waste Imports

(Aug. 8, 2017) On July 27, 2017, China’s State Council released the Implementation Plan on Banning Entry of Foreign Garbage and Reforming the Administrative System of Solid Waste Importation (Plan). The Plan announces that by the end of 2017 solid waste posing a serious threat to the environment and causing widespread public concern will be banned from entering the country. Importation of other solid waste for which substitute resources are available in China will be gradually phased out by the end of 2019.  (State Council General Office, Jinzhi Yanglaji Rujing Tuijin Guti Feiwu Jinkou Guanli Zhidu Gaige Shishi Fang’an [Implementation Plan on Banning Entry of Foreign Garbage and Reforming the Administrative System of Solid Waste Importation] (July 27, 2017) ¶ 3–5, State Council website.)

The “foreign garbage” to be banned includes plastic waste from living sources, paper, textile waste, and vanadium slag. (Id.)  Previously, on July 18, China had notified the World Trade Organization (WTO) that it would stop accepting shipments of those types of rubbish effective by the end of this year.  (Charlotte Gao, China ‘Urgently’ Bans Foreign Trash Imports, DIPLOMAT (July 20, 2017).)

The Plan lays out changes to be made to the regulatory system in connection with foreign waste imports. In particular, the Measures for the Administration of the Import of Solid Waste are to be revised by the end of 2018 to limit the ports through which solid waste may be imported, and the Law on Prevention and Control of Environmental Pollution by Solid Waste  is to be amended by the end of 2019 to increase the penalties for smuggling foreign garbage and illegally importing solid waste.  (Plan, ¶ 7.)

In addition, the Plan sets forth the government’s resolve to make efforts to strengthen the restriction of illegal entry of foreign garbage (id. 9–11), introduce a long-term mechanism to plug loopholes through which foreign garbage is imported to the country (id. 12–14) and to enhance domestic solid waste recycling and utilization (id. ¶ 15–18).

In recent years, as China’s environment increasingly deteriorates, the Chinese government is facing domestic pressure to take more serious steps to curb environmental pollution.   (China ‘Urgently’ Bans Foreign Trash Imports, supra.)